|Always match your laces to your bag 😉|
When I signed up for the 2015 Translantau 100km last year, it was because I thought I would make the most of my (then) impending move to Hong Kong and soon-to-be unemployed status. No reason not to with lots of free time and the HK trails!
As my crazy life usually pans out in the opposite direction of my plans, I find myself rocking up to the start of Translantau with far less than the desired training I’d hoped. When I fell last year at the MSIG Lantau 50, I earned 4 stitches and a patellar contusion that required reining back both my enthusiasm (it’s just a flesh wound!) and training, and cut short my HK4TUC attempt at 70km in.
A test run at the KOTH Sham Tseng two weeks gone and all seems back on track, so it’s all systems go! Coach Andy DuBois and I decided that this should be a training race in light of the 450km Anzac Ultra I’ll be attempting at Easter, so that’s what I set out to achieve. I figured about 22h would be comfortable enough and set a limit of 25 so I didn’t get too laid back. No poles (to build strength), and try to run any flats and descents was the basic plan.
|Nearly 6,000m D+ in 100km, nice!|
The race starts on Friday night at 11.30pm, which makes for a really long day. I was up early, excited to be racing again and looking forward to the start. It certainly was a real treat to see Paulina back on the trails again, catch up with Markko and Tuuli, Retha getting excited about her first 100km and a whole bunch of other trail mates!
A deluge of selfies, gear discussions and greetings later, we’re FINALLY ready to start. The weather is warm and humid, definitely a more welcome option than freezing winds and rain. Despite all the people I know, I find myself alone at the start line, squashed in next to a couple of Filipina racers Jon and Brian. Jon did the UTHK168 last weekend and I remembered him from GNW 2010 so I was in good company! Randomly, I realise I forgot to take off my makeup from being out during the day .. ah well, I’ll know if my eyeliner stands up to the ultra test, then!
A bit of a squeeze, some lion dancing to liven the mood, and we’re off across the sand! I pick my way through the runners and it’s not long before we’re starting to ascent to Lo Fu Tau. I haven’t done this course before apart from a short recce so I don’t really know what’s in store. Climbing up was steady enough and it was nice to see Nora at the top making sure we didn’t go the wrong way.
|Lions at the start. Photo: TransLantau|
Running along, I nearly missed the sharp left into the shiggy bit. A few runners did get lost along here, something easily done as there was just one ribbon which could easily have been mistaken for an indicator to go straight. I liked the next bit, and since it wasn’t easy to pass anyone there, it kept my competitive urges at bay and my pace steady enough.
The nutrition plan was to stick to Tailwind the whole way and see how my body reacted. I had my watch on a 10 minute timer, so I was reminded to drink regularly. I had a full 1.5l with me to start (1 scoop per 500ml) and carried a further 18 scoops of assorted flavours for the race. I made it to CP1 Pak Mong in just over 2 hours, felt great and didn’t need a refill so I just carried straight on after checking in. My Garmin 920XT is on Ultratrac and even this early on my readings are way off .. it’s showing 16km (should be 12) and my average speed will be record breaking if I keep this up!
I’d recce’d the next bit the week before, so I knew it would be a long-ish climb to the top of Sunset Peak. Doing this in the dark with damp to wet conditions and very limited visibility due to mist was actually quite enjoyable. I had my headlamp in my hand as a lower beam made the path clearer, and since you couldn’t see more than 5-10m ahead, the only thing left to do was to put one foot in front of the other till you got to the top. Not that cold but windy and wet enough to warrant a windbreaker. Steady down to Pak Kung Au – the steps were a little slippery, and at CP2 in just over 2 hours. There’s a spread of food and people look like they’re already tucking in at 21km, but all I need is some water, chuck some Tailwind in and I’m off.
The next bit is a runnable descent and then flat catchwater for some kms. My top priority in any race is not to fall over or get lost, and I had to pay attention the whole time so I didn’t trip over anything on the trail. Along the catchwater, my long day was taking it’s toll. My eyes were closing and I couldn’t stay awake so I did a fast walk/shuffle with my eyes closed and hoped I opened them before I got too close to the drain. I desperately wanted to sit down and sleep for 10 minutes! Instead I jogged and let myself ‘sleepwalk’ for ten counts every time I passed a drain ladder. I did remember suddenly waking up and running along thinking ‘this is awesome!’, but that didn’t last long and Lala Land beckoned again all too soon. Milos passed me somewhere along the way and at long last there’s the start of the climb to Ngong Ping. That still wasn’t enough to keep me awake and my pace slowed considerably as I considered curling up in a corner somewhere for a snooze.
Somewhere along the way Terence passed me, and I locked on to his yellow Altras to pick up my pace and power up a little to CP3. Same MO, fill up with water, chuck in some Tailwind, and I’m off. I hear Terence say ‘Wah, so fast ah!’ and wave goodbye as he sips his hot drink. 😉 It’s just past 6am now and the sun is coming up, always energising to feel daylight approaching!
I don’t remember much on the way to Keung Shan, just that it was nice to be moving again, headlamp off and the humidity was enough to keep me cool without getting too cold. CP 4 at Kau Ling Chung in under 2 hours, all good and not much is hurting. I am discovering that my new Salomon S-Lab 5l pack is nice and light, but feels too big when the bladder starts to deplete. The straps in front have changed a little and don’t seem to hold as well as the older version. The cord replacing the plastic attachments is more fiddly, and I keep having to tighten the elastic straps as they tend to loosen after a while. Otherwise, all is good!
Nearly halfway … a small descent before a climb up and over into Tai O. I meet Markko somewhere along the way and we have a pleasant run/hike together, taking the descents steady as out knees are starting to hurt. The run into Tai O seemed to take forever, having to run along the shore before turning into the town and reaching the school. It’s starting to hurt, but since it’s flat I have no choice but to keep running, as per the training plan. Fai is outside the school gates cheering racers on, and it’s nice to have a chat while I refill. I see Singaporean runner Shi Wei sat on one of the benches, and Markko is inside by the food relaying his journey so far to his wife, Tuuli. I fancy something to chew on so I go inside to inspect the food .. Terroir are one of the race sponsors and a slice of French saucisson is my treat for the moment. A slug of coke later, and I’m ready to head out. Fai walks me to the end of the road and I decide to walk first, given the next bit is a long climb to Ngong Ping. My knees, feet and heels are feeling pretty sore by now so I figure I’ll take it easier.
|The long stretch to Tai O CP. Photo: Harris Chan|
Through the village a few speedsters pass me, including Shi Wei who looks energised from his rest at Tai O. The three just ahead of me are putting on their gloves, and I wonder if they’re feeling cold … silly me! Sharp right turn up and into the bushes, and it’s not long before it dawns on me what the gloves were for … bushwhacking and pulling yourself up the climb! I found the climb great fun, most of the vegetation was over my head so I had no idea where I was going except that it was up! This was the only time I took any pictures, just because I was so tickled with having to bash through the undergrowth! I did pass a few, but more passed me and it was hilarious to see the bushes on the climb above shaking away as the runners made their way through. I run with an older gentleman for a bit and he reckoned I could make in 18 hours. That really got my brain going! The competitive side of me started the furious calculations to see if it was possible before the sensible (and lazier) side stepped in. I would have to work really hard to get in under 18h, and this was a training run, remember!? Stick to the plan! Training run, training run! But I’m still wondering for ages after if sneaking in a sub-20h would be possible. It takes me 3 hours to get to CP6 at Ngong Ping again, and my spirits are great. Water, Tailwind and a handful of cashew nuts this time.
|Can you see the trail behind me? Heading towards Ngong Ping.|
|Nice shiggy bits, still climbing!|
The Beast wanted to meet me at Ngong Ping and accompany me on the climb to Lantau Peak, but he’s stuck in Tung Chung and with no taxis, cable car closed and a crazy queue for the bus. I say I’ll meet him at Pak Kung Au instead and head up towards Lantau. The big steps towards Lantau are wet and slippery, and there’s a surprising number of hikers coming the other way. Visibility is terrible so it’s just a case of one foot in front of another. I find a rhythm and I get to the top quicker than I expect. It’s the coming down that took a while .. slippery rock and a tendency to trip over my own feet are not a fortuitous combination! It’s not cold and my arm warmers are doing a great job of regulating temperature from the wind chill.
|Finally got out of the bushes!|
It took 1h 42 mins to cover that 5km, but I make down unscathed and The Beast is waiting close to the bottom. I give him a hug and carry on … desperate for a pee now and there was nowhere to stop along the way! A hiker steps into the portaloo at PKA just before I get there so I’m left crossing my legs and trying not to hop. It doesn’t occur to me that I’m too well hydrated from my ‘drink every 10 minutes’ plan. I’ve been stopping regularly every hour or so, far more than I’ve done in any other race! My sleep deprived brain doesn’t tell me I should adjust my fluid intake so I still follow the plan …
|A busy CP7 at PKA. Photo: SportsSoho|
Another quick refill at Pak Kung Au CP7, three yellow M&Ms and we’re off! It’s like a big party at the CP as the 50km runners are just coming down Sunset Peak and joining the 100km route. There’s a lot more people on the course now and it’s nice to have The Beast for company, and Nora appears along the way for a short jog before turning round off in search of other people to egg on. I’m going well here and picking up the pace, and The Beast heads off to Mui Wo soon after.
|Nora cracks the whip. Photo: Ko All Weather Kwok|
The journey to Chi Ma Wan is hilly but uneventful, and just under 2 hours seemed like forever to get there. I’m really tired now and it all seems like hard going … not really looking forward to 450km next month right now! I meet Markko along the way again (he passed me earlier), and we take a few minutes to sit down at CP8. I clear the debris from my shoes and put a good slathering of Gurney Goo on my feet. I don’t have any blisters, but the two callus points on my big toes have softened from reduced mileage and felt like they might blister up. Better safe than sorry, and any excuse for a quick rest! Also my Experia socks with Thorlo pads were annoying me. The heel and forefoot pads were a little too bulky and made me feel like there was something in my shoe. Good trials for Anzac Ultra next month, at least I know which socks I won’t be wearing. I only wore them because I liked the purple colour!
Headlamp ready, batteries changed, water with Tailwind and I’m off again. The climb to Lo Yan Shan is slow but steady, and coming down the other side is quite a lot of fun. Someone tags on behind me, and follows my pace for quite a while. I don’t turn round to look for fear of tripping over, but he’s one of the 50km runners. I’m doing well till I start to tire and decide to fast walk instead. I’m feeling grumpy and realise I really need a pee again. But there are too many people on the trail now, there’s no stopping anywhere and I’m still a good distance away from Shap Long. Not that my Garmin could tell me .. I’m already on 106km and counting on the damn thing. This goes on for a while and all my attempts to find a hidden spot are thwarted by the fact that headlamps are now on and I’d be rumbled in no time! I try jogging, worse! Back to a fast, grumpy walk then, and loads of runners pass me. Bei comes towards me and cheers me on but I’m just a big grouch. It’s nearly an hour walking cross-legged and bug-eyed before there’s a suitable place to hide .. and as I turn off my headlamp, a couple of runners behind me do so and then follow me off the trail before I can explain. Great, I might as well announce to the whole of Lantau that I’m stopping to pee. FINALLY.
I can run again. The relief is indescribable and I’m off to make up for all that walking. And NO MORE DRINKING. Well, maybe just a little. Running down into Shap Long, I catch up most of the people who’d passed me earlier. There was a female 100km runner who’d overtaken me and I wanted to catch her if I could. I found her just before we go to Shap Long, and dropped her soon after. 2h 41 mins to get to Shap Long CP9 .. time to see if I took John’s advice to save something for the last ‘runnable’ bit!
The last 5kms were decidedly fun. I had plenty of energy and my knees were a little sore but everything else felt just fine. I passed people as I picked up speed and was delighted to see Mui Wo come into view. Nearly done! I pass Markko again on the way, and he’s taking it steady on the descents. I can’t wait to get to the finish but keep a mantra of ‘lift, lift, lift’ so that I remember to lift my feet and not trip over anything. It’d be typical of me to have an almighty crash just before the finish!
Down the stairs, into Mui Wo, and I see Tuuli waiting on the corner. I shout that Markko is not far behind and head for the beach. It’s lovely running in the town again, on flat ground (lift, lift, lift), and knowing the finish line is mere minutes away. Past the ferry terminal, the cooked food market and over the bridge. At Silvermine Resort I hear my name being shouted (thanks Chico, Kee Seng, Tira, etc!) and I can see a couple of runners ahead. I recognise one as another female 100km runner who passed me in the early stages of the race. There’s nothing for it, give it some beans and try to move up a place. Let’s see what I’ve got left!
As it turns out, more than enough. It was great fun opening my stride and feeling strong, I did encourage her as I went past but hoped I wasn’t being cocky. The last bit on the sand wasn’t one of my most sure-footed moments, but coming under the finish line with the drums beating and friends cheering was brilliant. Total time taken? 21:14:19. 2nd Senior Women (moving into a new age category might not be a bad thing!), 10 scoops of Tailwind, and far more climbing than I expected!
|Finish in sight! Photo: Oriental Radium|
Huge thanks to Nic for the delicious Coke, and Nora for sorting out my finish certificate. Hats off to Clement and Sabrina for a very enjoyable race and great course, I had a great time out there and met lots of lovely people! Huge respect to everyone out there on the course, the pointy end of the field made it look easy, and the ones who milked every last minute out of the event are real troopers for battling fatigue and injury to finish what they started. And for those who didn’t finish, there’s no failure in that. Valuable lessons are learnt every step of the way, and as long as you leave wiser than when you started, you’re finishing on top.
I would have liked to stay till the end, but I needed to make the 10.40 ferry and was feeling more than a little tired. By my count, I’d now been awake for over 40 hours. I was out like a light on the ferry, and on the taxi home, and then promptly woke up at 7am the next morning starving and ready for church!
The best bit? I finished unscathed, not even a major stumble and only a very minor detour. (Silly watch says I did 121km, Strava followers will think I’m super fast or super bad at directions)
No regrets not having my poles, I just need to get stronger on the climbs and better on the descents. My Hoka Huaka felt good, much improved with the soon-to-be-launched Freelace (the name might change, don’t hold me to this!). Tailwind? Brilliant. But I’ll need to adjust as the situation demands. And I need treats. Next time I’ll have a few treats with me just to combat the boredom or fatigue and get me going a little further or faster. And since it felt like I was deing ambushed by floodlights most of the night sections, I think I’ll look into getting a brighter headlamp. I love my little Black Diamond Storm (160 lumens), it’s waterproof and does well when I’m on my own, but pales in comparison to some of the portable floodlights the runners at TransLantau seemed to have. The brighter the light, the less chance of falling asleep .. any suggestions?
|Clio’s Kill Black eyeliner passes the ultra test!|
It was a great refresher race for what lies ahead, and my legs felt great. A slightly sore right glute (lazy left leg), but otherwise business as usual. Back out for a run the next day and delighted with how I’m feeling! Next up, Anzac Ultra! #450kmorbust