Hong Kong has trails?! I pondered to myself when I was asked if I would like to run the Hong Kong 100km Ultra.
The answer to my question is yes, Hong Kong does have trails and many of them. The mountains are a 15min drive from the busy city centre and once there, the mountains are littered with trails in every direction you look… Your trail running options are never ending!
I landed in Hong Kong just over a week before the race to catch up with a few mates, get over the jet lag and most importantly scout out a bit of the race route. My first impression of Hong Kong when I landed was Faaak this place is big. I could not see the tops of the sky scrapers, the bridges were never ending and the Harbour was massive. I really enjoy the diversity of cultures in Hong Kong. In the same street you can eat traditional food with the likes of duck feet etc… And then a few restaurants up you can eat a Gourmet Burger and fries.
In between eating some very interesting food I got to spend a good few hours on the trails thanks to Michael, Rowley and Sebastian – all expats who now live in Hong Kong. It was a major help to see a few of the trails as I knew what to expect come race day… lots of steps, some really fun rolling forest single track and some incredible coastal & panoramic city views. My two Salomon team mates, Jen (Canada) and Grant (Kiwi – pity about his rugby team!) as well as Vanessa (my girlfriend) arrived on the Tuesday and we had a great team spirit / vibe going into the race on Saturday.
Salomon arranged a group run and clinic which was loads of fun. One of the things I love about trail running is that I get to meet so many interesting people and experience new cultures. There was a great atmosphere during the run with lots of chatting amongst the runners. We enjoyed a few cold Red Bulls after the run, followed by a chat about the products tested and our general trail running experiences, including races like the 4 Deserts series etc.
The few days leading up to the race were fairly relaxed, we explored a bit of the city, checked out a few of the race check points and before I knew it, race day arrived. This was the first race of my 2012 season and I felt really nervous on the morning. I was hoping for a strong race but knew my legs would tire come the last 20km due to not having raced this season. The weather conditions were perfect; About 10 degrees Celsius, low humidity, clear skies and no wind.
And off we ran… The pace was quite fast right from the start due to quite a bit of pre-race hype about all the international runners in the start line up. I was feeling good, not pushing too hard and I very quickly got into a nice rhythm.
I noticed the lead pack of runners were pushing quite hard on the downhill’s so I decided to back off from the pace a bit and try make up the ground come the 2nd 50km. The two Nepalese runners were having a flyer, running like they had three lungs and made a bit of a break around the 20km mark. I ran into checkpoint two at the 32km mark in 4th position… I was having a jol out there. The views were insane with some nice flowing trails. I quite quickly passed the 3rd runner and at the start of the major climb going into halfway mark I passed the two Nepalese runners who both passed me again (as if I was standing still) on the long decent. I got to the halfway checkpoint feeling relatively fresh, Vanessa handed me some more Petpetuem and off I ran.
The next few kilometres seemed to go on forever… up, up and more up I ran, eventually I made it to the top of the peak and took in a few of the views before heading down the steep descent. I was quite surprised to pass both the Nepalese runners on this stretch and immediately went into race mode. The final 40km were the toughest part of the race as it had the most climbing in it, but I suppose having 60km in your legs already does not help. I was on my own for most of the final 40km apart from being joined for a few meters by wild monkeys who must have wanted one of my Red Bull e-shots!
The last 15km were tough and I was very relieved to get to the top of the last peak knowing all I had to go was 4km of downhill. It was at this point I knew the race was in the bag, I let my legs go and crossed the finish line in 9hours and 54mins, a bit slow for a 100km? My excuse is that I had to climb over 4600m and descend just under that..haha!
Proudly South African
I was super stoked with the result and felt I had a very solid race, I felt strong for most of it and I am looking forward to what lies ahead in 2012! My Hong Kong experience was epic and I was really sad to leave yesterday. Trail Running is booming in Hong Kong with races on most weekends. I love how passionate all the runners are about Trail Running and I have no doubt the sport will continue to grow. See you soon!
A massive thanks to Joseph, Fai and the Salomon Asia team for looking after us while in Hong Kong, you guys rock and made my visit to Hong Kong one of the most memorable experiences of my life. Sorry I did not try the goose feet…. next time! Vanessa, thanks babe for all your support and being out on the race course to 2nd me. Thanks to my sponsors: Velocity Sports Lab, Salomon, Red Bull, Oakley, Cross Country Insurance, Imazine, Suunto and Hammer Nutrition what more can I say, I get to do what I do because of you. Also thanks to my support team: Kelly, Ian, Chris, Benita, Sally, Tara, Laurence and Willie you guys rock! And last but least thanks to everyone for your messages of support and encouragement – it makes running through the tough patches a lot easier!