Friday, November 19, 2010

Maclehose Trailwalker 2010 100km

10/11/1923:01:22Oxfam Trailwalker 100kmYNStart_CP8

Team Background

Hong Kong is a small place and the running crowd is even smaller. The formation of our team was a trek of its own. I met my first teammate, Michael, from my second ever race ran in Hong Kong - AVOK Tai Tam 5k. We would meet up once more on a training run in Kam Sheung 3 months later through a trainer I paid to help coach me for the HKSCM 42.2km. And then once again 3 months later in Taiwan for the Salomon Suunto X Trail 17k race.

Now to my second teammate, Dwyfor. We met at Tolo Harbour 10k (Dec 2009) and Mizuno Shek Mun 10k (March 2010). After racing, we realized that we lived in the same neighborhood. After many conversations with him, the topic of Trailwalker came up and he said he did it with his colleages last year. I said I was interested and figured that finding two more runners shouldn't be too difficult.

I did some internet research and found a club in Hong Kong on A group of them are quite fast so I joined a few meetups. I was introduced to a team but their timing didn't really work for me. We kept in touch and there was a point where Dwyfor and I were close to being part of their team when Dwyfor realized joining under State Street (Principal Sponsor) would be more beneficial allowing us to start at 9:00AM. The timing of this was very close to when I met Michael, so all we needed was one more person.

Then our last and final member joined us through a referral from Speeto ( Organizer). Chris is a pretty fast runner, so it was a no-brainer.

In terms of team running, we only met up twice. Once on a mid June weekend training around 20k similar to that of Lantau2Peaks trail and then again for the actual Lantau2Peak race in October. It's not much training as a group but for the most part - all of us were training throughout the summer. Dealing with the chemistry would be a challenge, but hey - this type of thing always is.

Early Morning of Race
Dwyfor was flying back (red-eye) on a work related trip from Sydney and would be landing in Hong Kong 2-3 hours of the start of the race (foreshadowing?). I would wait for him and we would go together via cab.

The other guys live on the island and they would take a cab from there. I met Dwfor at the W as planned - he was all prepared and ready to go. We called the other guys - luck would have it that their cab was right in front of us.

Once we arrived traffic backed up 500m from the entrance and a lot of energy was present in the air. We registered, photographed and headed to the starting line. Unfortunately, through the paparazzi and fanfare confusion we lost Chris.. in a picture from another photographer, he is all alone amongst the crowd. With cell phone techology we were able to locate him and he was around 10m from the start - so we crept up passing many waiting runners. With less than 5 minutes to go, all the members were geared up and ready.

(I stoled these pictures from but since there isn't any copyright, I'm just taking back what is rightfully mine?)

Starting Line
The weather and visibility was nice. Although, we knew that it would start getting hotter. Going off too fast like a bullet is what I usually do, but as a team - I sticked with the designated pace runner (Michael). The pace was quite slow (My heartbeat barely reached 170bps) to what I was use to - but, I was pretty happy and talking a lot of bull. Except for running out of the shoot, our min/km was around a 6:30. The first 10km is on the paved road called Tai Mong Tsai Road then turning right into Sai Kung Man Yee Rd. Don't let it fool you, the beginning starts flat for about 3km and then the rolling hills elevate up around 100m and back down. I've ran this for the very first time in practice and thought I would go hard; and was completely out of breath - finally walking. Thaiquan road race uses the beginning course as well for the first 5km. So, certainly try that race if you want to get some initial feel of the course. But, since this is 100km, 98% of the competitors decided walking is a better choice for the uphill. The High Island Resevoir is always a nice welcoming view to greet after the rolling tarmac. We met up with Speeto from who looked ever so strong. He's an inspiration based on the fact that his pace is very steady for his age. Early on, we also met up with the Meetup Express group, had some jokes, laughs, sipped water and beer and stuck together for most of stage 1/2 (25k). Once we finished Dam #2, around the 10km; this is the point of no return. Forget hailing a cab until 14.5 km later. The elevation runs up 300m for about 1.5km and this is your introduction to concrete 'stairs'. Once you hit the top, you have hit Maclehose Stage 1, but for logistic reasons, CP1 is at the bottom near the first beach. It's a real site going up this bump once the ocean is in view. Certainly an oasis on a hot humid day craving you to cool off near the beach. A lot of campers like this area as well.


I've personally trained on this course section 2-3 times and even at night. Have a look at my 3:00AM video.. The exposed sun and humidity can drain you silly feeling lethargic - so, I feel we were really lucky to have the comfortable weather with the low humidity and "winter" sun. Although, there was a lot of sweating still going on. We checked in at 11:02, 2 hours and 16.1km later. We were 14 minutes faster than expected. We refueled the liquids and regrouped for about 2 minutes. Back to the hills and beaches. This section of the course has 2 tiny hills around 100m altitude. Once you hit the top, you run right back down bringing you to Tai Long Wan - the best fine grain sandy beach in Hong Kong. But once you get to around 21km, the inclines becomes a little steeper and takes us up around 300m in altitude. There is a rest stop at the peak with volunteers giving out 'fresh' lemon. I stuffed the lemon into my camel pack bladder, added pocari, GU packet and ran downhill for a shaken fresh lemonade. Perfect idea for anyone selling lemonade at the top of nowhere for 100HKD. This would be my last time to be in the 170bpm. Now onto CP2 and the first exit to get a cab and call it a day!


We arrived at CP2 17 minutes prior to our estimated time at 12:32PM. Spectators like this spot since it is only a 10 minute bus ride from the starting line. There were lots of people to welcome us with a few claps - so I energized the crowd by yelling "HANDS UP! WE'RE HERE! We are here - hands up. YAHHH." We stayed ~7 minutes at this CP by crossing the road to grab food such as bananas, peanut butter and jam sandwich, cold water, instant soup and hot water (very hot especially for the sun being full out). The entry leads into a wooded trail with lots of exposed roots and then lots of steps. By walking/hiking, you'll be in the shade for 5 minutes only to find yourself exposed to the blistering sun. The stunning view is perfect for a panoramic photo of Tolo Harbour to the north and Sai Kung to the south. The hike will definately increase your heartrate even if you walk slow. Altitude from the road is 230m in a quick 1km. No time to rest at the top... 5k of rolling hilltop descent on a narrow trail track. There are some tricky parts and it is easy to fall flat on your back. Luckily the mud was bone dry to provide stability; this is probably one of the few areas where there isn't a lot of stairs helping your descent making this part quite technical. There are literally parts of this section where I am jumping down from one rock to another. But just as you caught your breath, another steep 200m incline within 9km of stairmasters. It's this type of climbing that you wish were home watching trailwalker 2010 on CP3 has wide swings of inclines and descents compared to the first 2. It will tire you out if you haven't trained for it; or even if you have. After hitting the trough, within 3 minutes of steep uphill and 30km into the race, the words which all teams fear, "Let's take a break..."; our teammate Dwyfor started his first of many leg spasms. Instead of describing it in words, I think a spreadsheet breakdown would put things more into perspective. Btw, on a very humid summer day in Hong Kong, a fresh run could finish in 1 hour and 30 minutes or less; possibly a worn out run previously running CP1+2, should finish in 2 hours max. Today, this course took us: 2 hours 38 minutes and 48 seconds including 40 minutes of breaks.

Starting at the base of the last hill and backdown, Kai Kung Shan. Time is formatted in Minutes:Seconds:Milliseconds. (HOW GEEKY IS THAT?)
Break TimeMove TimeReason
0:42:54-Dwyfor Left Leg Spasm
-7:10:07Hike it off
0:41:12-Break 2
-1:03:35Move up hill
0:26:23-Break 3
-2:16:48Move up hill
0:42:49-Break 4
-4:42:16Move up hill
4:13:06-Dwyfor Right Leg Spasm
-5:44:53Move up hill
3:04:23-Break 5
-13:45:37Run on flats
-11:52:22Run down hill
1:22:06-Michael trips and falls, serious ankle sprain
-4:46:32Walking down hill to CP4

Total Break TimeTotal Move Time


After checking in with the officials, we refilled our camelpacks and it took ~6 minutes to located our State Street volunteer support staff. They were right at the beginning of the trail entrance. It was certainly a joy to see them. They had our drop off bags so both Dwyfor and Michael could attend to wounds and freshen up a bit. There was also hot food available including pasteries, fried rice, chicken, broccoli, and cold soda. No beer though; with all the pain our teammates went through, it would probably have helped greatly.

Considering the injuries we went through, we all were ready to go in 15.5 minutes. Bringing the total rest time to 22 minutes. The groups spirit seemed to be replenished with this break. Even though with two of our members limping, the race finish as a group was still within our reach, although the time finish was severely influenced. We were aiming for 2.5 hours including breaks. The first 5km is straight up ~465m with a lesser grade then the start of CP3 then back down 200m decline, with a roller coaster up and down of 150m for a total of 12.5km. The initial beginning primarly consists of dirt rooted single track surrounded on each side by forest trees with concrete steps every so 50-100m. Within a few minutes, the trail ends and it becomes pavement again. This part is quite steep in places and only the extremely fit are able to run the total uphill road. Dwyfor and Michael was moving forward well for their condition. We were actually passing a team organized by the Grand Hyatt; so confidence and morale was increasing. One of the participant came all the way from Sweden. Columbia had their tents displayed out as well before marker 71 (35.5km). This area gives a little down hill which is still pavement, but a much steeper climb then the beginning of CP3. There is also a transition from pavement veering left onto single dirt tracks with concrete steps approached us for the big climb. It seemed that things were going really well and we even passed #5031 (ECHO) who used bamboo as walking sticks and #0150 (Kong Fok Church) using store boughten sticks. FYI, the store boughten stick team beat the bamboo stick team by 1 hour. With 1km left to go to reach the peak, there was a 164m incline. So far so good; then Dwyfor has a small seizure which he is able to control. The concrete slabs at times are 2 steps before the next one. It's tiring but, bearable. Also at this point there were a lot of individual walkers without a full team. We were very close to the top and Dwyfor had another seizure. He's a trooper. Anyone that has had muscle spasms in their large quadraceps know how hard it is to climb major altitude. Once at the top we were able to hear the wind whistling and birds chirping. Actually, the climb up isn't so demanding as the run down. The amount of force put on your legs was really incredible. Unfortunately, I don't have any medical knowledge to comment further. Once at the top, there is a short ridge line which allows for speed and thus basically is runnable for 6km with little climbing involved. But, the downhill finally brought on the wrath to Dwyfor's legs with big loud wail, "OHhhh woohwooo woo wooo". As I said immediately, "Oh no, that doesn't sound good". Dwyfor exclaims, "@#%*'n DAGGER INSIDE... @#%* @#%* @#%*". The running stops and we walk for 2 minutes. Altogether, a 3 minute rest. Dwyfor kept on pushing like "The Engine That Could".. By this time, the red sun was signaling a good night piercing through the ridge horizon. As we entered Mau Ping ~43km (A point that is a crossroads of ancient trails bringing goods from Sha Tin to Clearwater Bay, Sai Kung to Kowloon), an open field right after exiting the shaded trees, some guy was handing out "chinese" candy. All I can say is that it wasn't sweet and wasn't tasty. I threw it right into the garbage bin! YUCK.

With a hard left turn, we went back to the trails eventually bringing us on a ridge into CP4 near Gilwell Campsite. Most of this section is quite rolling and requires a fair amount of hiking up and down more stone steps. Again providing the right grade to cause more cramps for Dwyfor.. With the sunset to the west, Kowloon to the south, the trail has a ridge section providing a quicker pace on a cement single track path, but then back into the wooded section with more climbing to finish off CP4 (47.5km). As we entered the campsite, there was a sign for immigration. Did we run that far off course? Luckily, I had my HKID card to go through the express line. Our target was in sight. We were only 16 minutes off arriving at 5:29PM. Once inside the CP, there was 10 different drinks to choose from. Ginger, green tea, coffee, you name it. So good, when you try to crunch down 1 powerbar for over 25 minutes. The time at this stop was 8 minutes and two minutes walking afterwards...

Leaving the CP, we were calculating our situation. Being only 8 minutes behind schedule, and an estimated time of 2 hours.. it would be possible.
The initial section is paved and downhill allowing us to reach speeds up to 6:30/km - 5:00/km. This would be even faster than when we started. Although night fall is upon us, anything could and would happen. During the daytime on clear skies, you can consume great views of Hong Kong Island and Kowloon metropolis. Somewhere on this section, I rolled my foot over a fist sized rock. It didn't seem to bother me; just a slight pain. On the other hand, Beacon Hill footprint proved to be more than what he could handle. Dwyfor spasms were back in force and to top it off, he fell hard and lost a contact. It appeared that anything that required more than 100m ascent climb was out to get us and it did. This would be the last small climb before seriously gaining altitude to the top of Tai Po Shan, a ~750 ascent. Once we arrived at CP5, Dwyfor called it in by retiring the race leaving the three of us to carry the torch (headlamp).

Even with our problems, we hit the proposed time outside of 2 minutes. We spent 9 minutes at this stop. This area is wonderful at night. To the right you can witness the lights of Hong Kong Island and Kowloon City. If you are into night runs, this segment is a worthy run! Once we crossed Tai Po Rd, Michael's family was waiting for us. They brought cookies, brownies and pocari. Very nice! Thanks again for that one. We spent maybe less than 4 minutes to wave their family goodbye in the dark.

This passage is the shortest of all. It's a mere 6.1km, but it's not easy after so much distance. We had some issues here with our baggage. It appears that the help from State Street was no where to be found. We browsed around for about 5 minutes and decided it wasn't worth the effort and better to cut down on some time. Beacon Hill all the way to Kam Shan is monkey territory. There are so many of them that you'd think you weren't even close to Hong Kong. The initial route is paved and monkey's love to be in the trees waiting for a park-n-shop bag to ravagely tear it apart. We were moving swiftly up through Upper Shing Mun Resevoir where the real climb started to begin. A 300m altitude climb 2km called Needle Hill after 60+ km would make anyone feel tired and it certainly slowed us to a crawl. After this hill, it's another repeat of 250m altitude climb with a significant descent grade back down. This area; I believe, is where my ankle became severely swollen and the roll I experienced around 1/2 marathon prior was putting loads of strain on my ankle.

The rest time at checkpoint 7 was way too long. We stopped for over 35 minutes. Michael was attending to his ankle and I was attending to the soup section eating anything and everything they had including mushroom, tomato, potato and even chinese ramen. I even took off my shoes because my feet and ankle were now hurting. With another 465m altitude climb to go, and now almost 16 hours on the feet, everyone wasn't looking forward to this climb. The only thing looking up at this point besides the peak was the fact that my very best friend Danny was going to meet us at CP8. He was a big super duper support trooper since it's basically right before midnight and he'll be our pacer to help us finish into the glorious crowded coliseum of
cheering fans.. Oh, right! That's not this race.. Delusion sets in place around this time as well. Once we hit a little downhill, Chris volunteered to speed off into the darkness and meet up with my friend who he has never ever met before. Both Michael and I were stumbling along by this point. Once we got out of the heavy littered bouldered trail, low and behold; my marathon-turned-triathlete friend and pacer would help carry us individually to the finish line (LITERALLY). Whoo hoo.. We met him where the cows crap all over the place and where the trail is now pavement for 25km. He was a tad shivering without a jumper so, he decided to run up to the top of Tai Mo Shan and back down the other side. He knows this area well because we took our tri-bikes out for a spin up here the week before. It's absolutely all downhill from here until we hit Tai Lam Chung Reservoir. It started out well, the group was recharged and the pace increased. We were going at 6:30-7:00/km pace with the assistance of gravity. Not bad mangled up men who ran for 73km..

Taking out the break after CP7, it took us about an hour and fifty minutes. This place is the last bag pickup to gather items that we didn't want to carry. Unfortunately, we had some logistical issues finding the place and we went on a goose chase wasting 30 minutes at this stop since it was right at the check-in. I didn't have anything to pick up and actually was getting cold in the legs. Also, by this time with the force of the downhill; my right ankle seemed to be getting worse. Except for a very small hill here and there, this part of the course is all downhill. I tried to run it out in the beginning, but my tender ligaments weren't working. I suppose my race ended at CP8, since I had no more motivation to run. Danny provided emotional support for the really long walk. He didn't have to come out and yet here he was, never complained once about my snail pace. Michael and I definately didn't have much left but to finish. Chris volunteered to speed off into the darkness and keep a warm seat at a bench for us inside CP9.

Golly gee. Will we make the proposed time? Once we hobbled into camp, it was 4:27AM in the morning. We met up with Chris, had a few words spending 25 minutes for everyone to move forward and to finish the race that we started as a team and/or minus one. Walking takes two and half times as long as jogging. We proved that morning! Well over 2.5 hours for a little less than 10km. Off we went to finish the race... With no desire to make my ankle worse, Danny and I walked the rest of the way. Michael and Chris volunteered to speed off into the darkness and keep a warm seat on the bus. I just remember many runners passing us again and again. This trail is weird because the new ending has posts going down instead of up making it difficult to know when the HELL will we finish? The temperature around the Reservoir began to drop. It was down right chilly but warmed up after 7AM! I eventually came in 3 hours later arriving at 8:00:03AM in the morning.

Tired and drowsey.. I completed the Trailwalker 100km. Some reason there were no fireworks when I arrived. Well, now to the next adventure: 1/2 Ironman in Phuket Thailand on November 5, 2010. Danny and I will grind it out for 5-7 hours! Wish us luck and come back again to read/watch more multi-sport adventure racing from a below average athlete not really having any goal but to 'jog'.

Race + Day0:
Limped around, slept soundly and ate 16oz medium well steak

Race + Day1:
Limped around even more, ate Buffet

Race + Day2:
Hobbit right foot. Still very swollen

Race + Day3:
Swam 8 minutes. Wooden leg hobble. Went to chiropractor and acupuncture on same day

Race + Day4:
Limp and tender

Race + Day5:
Swam 30 minutes. Just went to acupuncture. Walking well and but still feel sore.

Race + Day6:
Rode bicycle for 60km, swam 200m. Seems like I'm back to recovery! Thanks for all your support.

THE END! I hope you enjoyed the read.

Danny paced with me from the start of Tai Mo Shan to the finish line.