Saturday, January 15, 2011

Hong Kong 100 Ultramarathon

Facebook pictures [1] [2]

It's a cool mid-day morning as I hobble up the Hong Kong Central elevator determined to push myself faster than those who were standing still. My body craved for my usual lunch pasta meal at Te owned by a fixed-gear bicycle enthusiast. I hit my 10 count visit to reward myself to a free Tuna Oregano Spaghetti. To indulge my efforts this past weekend from a long trek in Northern Territories of Hong Kong, I pushed the envelope and increased my meal by 50% for only $15HKD. It was a much needed fuel requirement for my weakened state especially the 15 difficult stairs leading up to the store entrance.

It's amazing how the body can tell the mind that enough is enough. Everytime I complete a race, everyone asks the same question, "Are you ok, did you hurt yourself?" I laugh it off and say, "Just ran 5km.. 21km.. 37km.. 50km.. 1/2 Ironman, 100km!" They strangely respond with, "I hope you get well..." The true self grit test of any race, is to ask yourself: "Did you push hard enough to give it all you got and feel like a winner, even though you might have came in dead last?" Pushing your body's ability without destroying it like Chris Legh did is what makes anyone who pursues athletics stronger and more willfully determined. We all know it is more of a mind game than physical. Thus, another story of the trials and tribulations of the endurance escapade unfolds.

Speaking of escapade, the word brings me to the reason why I ran this race. ESCAPADE Sports, Vibram, and a few others were sponsors for the HK100. This Hong Kong ultra-marathon race is 75% similar to the infamous Oxfam Trailwalker Maclehose course, but with diversions in Sai Kung around the north end of Hoi Ha and Tolo Channel. However, this event is solo instead of a 4 person member team participation. It would be 2 whole months since I had my first ever continuous ultra-marathon and the race was beck and calling me to come forth. As some of my readers felt I could improve the JoggerJoel course record of 23:01:22 in cushioned shoes, I was initially apprehensive with my ability and the Vibram shoes. This calling was from a facebook message delivered to me from a friend I met in Vietnam.

Ann November 26, 2010 at 3:08pm
Hi there, Hope you are all well.

I have been asked by my friend who runs the Escapade shop if I know of anyone 
who would be interested in running the Hong Kong 100 Ultra on 15-16 January in Vibram Fivefingers and being sponsored by Escapade. I have never tried Vibrams and I'm not sure if you guys have ever run in them but I thought I would ask. Let me know if you are interested.

Ann .

Joel November 26, 2010 at 5:41pm
I have VFF, but I'd never wear them for more than 10km... .

Joel November 26, 2010 at 9:14pm
Ah, what the hell.. tell your friend I'll do it - Somehow I feel like I need redemption for walking the last 30km of trailwalker, maybe I'll get something more if I record the whole trail and spend a week writing a blow by blow VFF description of 100km of blistering hell!

Ann November 26, 2010 at 10:17pm

You definitely want me to put your name forward? More than happy to do so - just wanted to double check!

Ann .

Joel November 26, 2010 at 10:18pm
yes, but does it give me international fame? lol .

Ann November 26, 2010 at 10:22pm
Of course, and fortune, and beautiful girls, etc...

I considered the above, and what striked me the most was the course ;). I've already ran most of this course before and even at 3:00AM in the morning. So, the real unknown was how I would handle with the shoes. Given the fact that I have never ran more than 10km in a race, it appeared to be a real challenge. But, my life is always about challenges and overcoming them in brilliant self-indulging glory. I would have two months to prepare with some very difficult races like Iroman Phuket 70.3, King Of The Hills Full Mountain Marathon races: Shan Tseng and Lantau. Luckily, KOTH 'mountain marathon' races provided excellent training to get up to speed with the Vibram shoes. Thank you, Keith Noyes for finding rugged, hilly, rocky, and down-right exhausting courses. I should mention that Action Asia Events, Vietnam and Laos 3-day staged events during the summer made this all possible to begin with. Thanks Michael Maddess, or should I say Mr. Madness! "How far ahead is it, Michael?", I recall from the blistering heat. "Ah... just 5km! You look strong," as Michael created a dust cloud from his motorbike.. knowing from my watch it shows 8-10km more and it's all uphill! The blisters were very painful from running with cushioned shoes and being a real amateur at best. For the Shan Tseng race, I wore the standard VFF KSO and did that ever teach me about the rocks. I became very intelligent and smart in quick order. The second race, Lantau, wasn't any better which I wore VFF KSOTrek, but learned from my mistake and minimized the pinky toe stubbing. I figured if I could do close to 70km over a span of a month in trail running with these shoes, I would be prepared enough to complete the 100km course. But, the Lantau race provided only 6 days rest. I was wondering if it would impact my time, but my real goal was just to finish and not to get injured.

As the days became colder and closer to the race, I took the opportunity to run around 25km in VFF KSO on asphalt, to help with the final preparations. The smoother road was pleasing to my feet and I was very happy with the speed I was going. It was similar to the pace I ran last year for training the Hong Kong Standard Charter Full Marathon. It built the confidence that I needed to complete a long run with the shoes. But unfortunately, 2 hours of constant running wouldn't be the deciding factor in completing a 100km. I would have to wait until the final hours to determine whether I would the ability to persevere. The most important goal was to prevent any injuries like ankle, hypothermia, or dehydration. Since, my time requirement isn't crucial, I wanted to survive to tell the story for another day. Going to the hospital like I did for HKSCM because of heat exhausion and dehydration would be unacceptable especially for this type of race and weather.

A week and a half before the race, I was invited to a luncheon with the race organizer, corporate sponsors including Vibram and Escapade Sports, press members and the runners. It was an interesting and informative event describing Vibram's history and the creation of the Five Fingers shoes. "When Vibram founder Vitale Bramani invented the first rubber soles for mountaineering boots in 1935, it was the beginning of a revolution. FiveFingers is the latest example of their relentless commitment to research and product innovation. Industrial Designer Robert Fliri first proposed the idea of FiveFingers footwear to Marco Bramani, grandson of Vibram founder Vitale Bramani, who immediately embraced the concept. Soon, Fliri joined Vibram and began working with a team of footwear professionals and product engineers who helped him to refine and realize his vision." from Vibram's communication channels. The short story here is that Vibram designed a totally unique shoe that is very complex in design (you also have to remember that VFF's were designed for outdoor use but not running). Then the book, "Born to Run" hit the shelves and VFF's sold out everywhere with this 'new' idea that running barefoot was going vegetarian when all we did was to eat McDonalds Big Macs! And how long again has Nike been in business? 1964 and MCD 1940; is it a coincidence that both of these companies are marketing jauggernauts and appeal to the mass? "Born to Run" compares Nike to the fast food of running. Interesting read and intriguing story...

I usually do things backwards. I'll buy the shoes thinking it is just a cool idea, then immediately starting running in them at a local 10km road race. Then I'll read the book. And then after 200km, I would finally check out reviews on websites learning about the 'pros/cons':

Running in VFF's

If you are on this site I will make the assumption that you are interested in running. So, with that in mind, there are some things you need to keep in mind when running in VFF's.

1) First and foremost is to TAKE IT SLOW. Unless you are already a barefoot runner or go barefoot most of the time you are going to use muscles, tendons and ligaments which are very weak. Follow the sticky on these forums located HERE and slowly move into your VFF mileage.

Oh, now that I've ran 200km in 1 month, I realize I should have taken it slow... hmm! That's my intelligence thinking I'm so smart stubbing my toes.

2) VFF KSO's are NOT waterproof. If the ground is wet or muddy, your feet will get wet. If the ground is cold, your feet will get cold. You may wear Injinji toesocks, but the bottoms of the VFF's have cuts in them which allow moisture to go up straight to your feet and the Vibram rubber conducts heat and cold.

Injinji toe socks, I have a no-brand name toe socks from Korea bought on the street market. When I ran with VFF KSO for my first road race, I didn't wear socks and felt a lot of heat build-up. Using socks is a requirement in my opinion. It would have been nice if I did a little more research instead of using trial and error.

3) KSO's do take some time to break in for some people. Read this post for ideas on making them more lexible or stretching them out.

Oh boy, when I committed to running 100km again, I realized that I would only have around 3-4 opportunities to run in them and it would be at a high intense race environment.

4) There is only a very thin layer of rubber between the bottom of your foot and the ground. Please avoid rocks and sharp objects or you will pay the price.

Rocks? Let me check, are there rocks in Hong Kong!?! As I look out the window - the tallest hill appeared in the distance called Tai Mo Shan. I was royally @$#%'ed! So much for easing into it, I'll just have to go 'grunt' style and clench my teeth and chant a modified military cadence call:

Everywhere I Go...

Everywhere I go,

People want to know, Who I am, So I tell them...

I'm not The Army, The Backpacking Army,
I'm not the Coast Guard, They don't even work hard,
I'm not the Air Force, The Low-Flying Air Force,
I'm not the Marines, They don't even look mean,
I'm not the Navy, They make me seasick,

I AM Jogger Joel, an 'average' jogger...
Jogging through the woods,
Jogging up hill sides,
Jogging on tarrmac,
Jogging to China..
Jogging to France..
Jogging the world.
Jog Jog Jog Jog Jog Jog

Escapade Sports was a wonderful sponsor. All I had to do was to get over the finish line. They were very supportive and provided initial Hammer products of my choice. I don't envy anyone who is a professional at endurance sports. It's a lot of effort and time and effort. There is continous attention on performance and bad days can be very bad. Everyone remembers failures too easily and sponsors can easily drop athletes like yesterday's newspaper. I don't know my future will be since ultimately I know I'm average in speed and age. Therefore, I will cherish my experience of racing for Team Escapade!

Pre race
Prime time has arrived and I woke up automatically at 4:30AM. I grabbed my bags and arrived at Pak Tam Chung around 7:20AM, a familiar location as it is the starting point of now the third time being at this race spot in Hong Kong. Within minutes of exiting the taxi, I was immediately met up with the Escapade family and media crew. After a quick stop at the restroom and chatting with familiar faces, it was time to put my game face on and prepare for a long day. The morning was really brisk, and I felt it was important to get out the liner shell since the wind was blowing pretty decently by rattling myself and other around. I was telling another runner that I brought an extra layer of clothes at the halfway point. I even made sure to bring along a ski-mask to cover my ears and mouth. It was a good call as today would be one of the coldest that I can remember. I learned my lesson quickly after a morning ride with my bicycle up to Tai Mo Shan Country Park entrance some 400m in climbing altitude. So, that day took me longer to come down than up because of the wind chill numbing my fingers. It's not a pleasant feeling! It proved an important morning ride to ensure from going into hypothermia on this cold night. It was now time to size up the competition.

I met my first battle warrior in Five Fingers as there were 3 or 4 of us.. 4 Toes and one thumb? I want to be the toe next to the thumb and middle, that one is protected! Anywas, he would be the first person that I would meet and the last on this race. I was telling him, "It's so cold!" He replied, "I'm Soo Kong (or something like that). You're not wearing enough, me too. I'm not wearing enough myself." I quickly responded, "So, what time do you think you'll come in?" Confidently he exclaimed, "It should take me 15 hours, but my knees aren't too good, how about you?" I shivered, "I don't know, I have no idea..." and off he vanished speaking to the crew before I could remark about it any longer. We sized each other up and I hope I wouldn't have to meet him again... With only 30 minutes left, I quickly did my interview with the crew:
Reporter: Can you introduce yourself?
Joel: Hi, my name is Joel. I've been in Hong Kong for 2.5 years.
Reporter:  How many races have you done?
Joel: I started 15 months ago and started in Sept 2009. I probably did around 20 races.
Reporter: What was the most challenging race compared to HK100
Joel: I think the first race I did was the most challenging and that was only 5km. I thought I would die at the end of the race. So this is 100, so I hope my training has paid off.
Reporter: I see you are wearing Vibram Five Fingers.
Joel: Yes, I am wearing Vibram Five Fingers KSOTrek. This shoe has a little more padding on the bottom than the original VFF KSO. I am looking forward to complete it in VFF for the whole course. I'm pretty excited to be sponsored by Escapade and showing other people there are other alternatives than cushioned shoes.
Reporter: How do you think Vibram will help with your run?
Joel: I think in the long term, Vibram will definately help my stride, but today I just want to finish respectively.
The camera man wanted to get a close up of the shoes as I held them in my hand. A little balancing act was necessary. Right afterwards, I met up with Andre Blumberg who said he would buy dinner if I finished by midnight. I told him honestly, "I probably won't even see you when I once the gun goes off. That's really a fast pace in cushioned shoes for me." Then, I met up with Nora Senn giving her a big hug. I told her, "I'll see you at the 10km, wait.. maybe 12 since it's flatter." Nora exclaimed, "No, I'll see you in 15-20 since it's rolling hills and I'm going slow anyways..." Being a local celebrity for one day was pretty cool, I met up with (Joseph) Ng Sheung-Yi, the other local dude who was running the race in Vibrams. He was expecting sub-24. "NICE!" He showed my his sponsored shirt and I dropped off my bags. The next person I saw was Jermey Ritchey as "Bat out of Hell" was playing by Meatloaf.  I shouted, "JERMEY! What's up man?" He giggled, "*%#$ Hey! Jesus... Freak show, how much are they paying you?" I had to punch him in the shoulders a bit to show him I wasn't completely nuts! I told him I will now have to edit this part of the video; but, "Anyways, it should be fun. I'm going to book it for the first 10k". He remarked, "Wow, should be fun. I think it's a good strategy because of..."  (reading his mind - bruja). "You guys went out fast in Lantau, You know I did that on purpose to go out fast", I continued. His eyes rolled, "Mmmm." I quickly interrupted and said, "Not because I'm an idiot, well... maybe I am an idiot." He laughed out of control as I continued, "Not trying to encourage torture, but it's really hard for me to go downhill with cushioned shoes, but it's even harder with VFF, so the only way I can get home sooner is to run like a bat out of hell..." The music silenced. With not much time left, I headed toward the starting line and met up with another group of runners shivering. I told them that currently it was 54 degrees Fahrenheit. The race directors gave us a few last minute instructions and I bumped into Denvy Lo, the new goddess on the block ultrarunner who won the Racing the Planet Gobi Desert. She asked me if I was going to do the 50km, and I replied that I would be doing 100km in VFF. She bowed graciously as if I was her hero?!?  Michael Maddess had his game face on and was tuned out readying for this race. Even Vincent Nateri was quite quiet since it was so cold.
5 五, 4 四, (what? already!?) 3 三, 2 二, 1 一. The clocked ticked 8:00AM and we were off!

Vibram Competitors
For me, this would be a race within a race. There were 4 sponsored runners, 2 from Vibram and 2 from Escapade Sports. Vibram runners were hand picked by their massive running commitment in Vibram Five Fingers both living in Beijing, whereas Escapade used the word of mouth for local Hong Kong participation.

Patrick Wong is no joke. He's run all the tough ultra running distances: Oxfam Trailwalker, Gobi Desert, Great Wall marathon, several 1/2 Ironman, and the list probably goes on and on...

I overheard that Ng Seow Kong has been everywhere.  He's been to both the North and South poles, been in hottest deserts and highest mountains of Nepal.

Local resident Joseph Ng has been wearing Vibram before Mr. Vibram wore vibram. I think I ran into him back in the early days of my training in November 2009 for the Hong Kong Standard Marathon when I was meeting up with my trainer in Shek Kong taking a bus up Twisk road. I saw him wearing some funky shoes and asked him what was the deal? He replied, "I trek in them in the hills."

As I mentioned, I've worn Vibrams for only 20km on moderately flat paved roads before my last 100km death march...

Race Start

Follow the leaders, follow the leaders... The pace is easy in the beginning! They won't go out like a Bat Out of Hell.. I just want to go as fast as possible before the rough terrain that Andre described hits. It will be the only time that I will be able to go fast. And what better way to go - at the pace with the rat pack. Lizzy Hawker, Michael Maddess, Jermey Ritchey and William Davies. Who knows, maybe I can stay a couple kilos with them.. although a few extra minutes won't mean crap at the end of the race, 1km at the end can take an easy 10 minutes whereas being fresh can be less than 5 minutes. Whatever the case might be, it was my strategy for this and ummm... every race and I'm sticking to it. Also, I gotta get good photo shots! It's my only time to get a shot of the world reigning alpine trail runner, running. I don't want to look like an ass and be in front of her or these fast guys because everyone will be done in half the time but, maybe I can do one of those quick - "look and I gotcha" snap. You can't take it back~~. 2 seconds after the horn, two runners stop in mid-run. Why? I have no idea, but WHAO! Get out of my way! As expected, 6 fast runners lead the pack as I'm filming them. The wind is howling. 1 minutes later, another runner joined the pack, oh wait - that's not a runner, but a camera man was racing up and getting shots of us as we passed. He's carrying a lot of bags and shouldn't he know it's dangerous to run with technology? Lizzy is the pacer as Michael flanks her on the right. As we pass Pak Tam Rd, 2 and half minutes into the race, Jermey shouts at me, "Come on Five Fingers, get out there in front!" I had my 5 seconds of being first, looked at Lizzy to get some video and drop back into the pack right at a good time as an incoming truck was coming toward us on the other side of the road.

It's important for runners to know the course before actually racing in it. I apparently thought we were going to race the same route up to 20km. Well, within 3 minutes and 30 seconds into the race, we did a quick right turn into the woods and up steps to a single path called Sheung Wu Family Walk which denied any thoughts about staying with the pack. The fast pace ended into a quick walk up the stairs and into the single-track trail. The path composite initially was a stone/cement base with sand filling in the center as it increased in altitude for about 2 minutes of fast hiking. The path then became undulating and weaving through the trees and at the highest point the trees rustled from the strong wind. I kept my pace as best as I could and started to get passed by the faster runners. It would be my last time I would see any of the winners, but it was worth every minute being up in front even if it was literally 4 minutes. The path became rocky which made it hard to keep a good pace for the next 30 minutes.

Once out of the woods, the tarmac road became familiar again as we headed toward high island reservoir. I somehow had reserves to pass 4 runners who passed me already in the woods and one of them was Claire Price. I said to myself, I can keep up with her until we hit the first hills. The wind picked up literally blowing me like a used facial tissue. When there was a tail wind, I would hold out my arms and let it force me forward achieving at one point a 4:34 minute kilometer pace. I think Claire thought I was crazy passing her several times as the wind blew wickedly. As we passed the Kwun Mun damn, I drafted behind Claire hoping for her to block the wind. I'm not so sure she enjoyed this closeness as she would multiple times look down at my shadow as I tailed her and try to sprint off. But, damn it, this is a race and if she can help me finish... I'm sure she will be proud of my tactical efforts. Claire stopped for water, but I just drank 1/2 of my gatorade and felt there was no need to refill at this semi checkpoint. The camera crew was also there to get a nice picture of my Vibram stomp. I would be able to run and keep her behind mea few meters before the Maclehose Stage I/II sign which is at the top at 110m on the smooth variable sized orange rocks layed in cement stemp, around 15km into the race and a little over 1 hour and 36 minutes. But then she darted off as we started the decent... I gotta figure out how to get faster on the downhills especially with cushioned shoes... Up to this point, my average cadence was around 96spm, and heartbeat in the high 170s, but hit a max of 186. I'm not sure if that was real, my heart rate isn't suppose to go over 180. But it went over 180 - 3 times. Oh well, whatever. It would be the last time I would see it at this levels during the rest of the race for both speed and heart beat rate.

Going down to Ham Tin beach is always interesting be-with-nature feel. I still had enough reserves to continue the route now in jogging mode with the continuous battering of steps after the Maclehose Stage I/II sign. The foot technology was churning well without any issues. Even double stepping here and there seemed fine. Of course, by the time I hit the descent, the second wave of faster groups pushed past me as I am not a strong on the declines and even worse with VFF. I finally hit the beach and oh did it feel great on the feet. With cushioned shoes, it's not a real joy. I always felt like the loose beach sand is sucking me into the ground, but not with Vibrams. Well, that didn't last long as the terrain became hard again with steps leading up to the next 300m ascent.  I was sweating by this time and opened up my green wind shell coat. I was still thankful that I decided to wear it as I knew the wind would howl much colder in the day/evening not really knowning what time I'd reach the pickup point to change. There was a covered lookout halfway and at the very top and I remember sleeping there for over an hour and a half last year in the sweltering summer. The terrain up here was very rocky but smoothed out with concrete steps still going up then turning into hard compact dirt with more rocks. Once at the top, there's a few stairs scattered every so often, but it's more of a hinderance than help as it easier to avoid them. Rocks were everywhere, little rocks and medium rocks littered everywhere and the worse part is it is going down. This will hurt! It's five minutes for me, but it feels like eternity stepping sideways, lunging over rocks, and technically even with cushioned shoes, it's not easy for me. It took over an hour to go up and over the 300m hill. Finally, I was back on concrete heading on a steep descent to Tai Lo Wan beach again enjoying the fine course sand. I would need one more push up and over maybe 50-100m ascent into CP1. As Vincent past me on the descent without saying a word, 3 of us headed forward as I followed them as they fumbled finding the path leading in CP1 where we headed inland over a rickety bridge getting a fantastic high quality shots from Vicma Lee.
I stopped for one and a half minutes, refilled water, grabbed a banana, and an orange. With the hills now giving me a reason to slow down the speed a little bit, I sms my virtual support crew:

11:00 SMS: CP1 - 17k
Just imagin pizza and beer waiting at the finish! - D. McFee

15 hour pace...... go go go - D. Evans
Nice, keep up, u abs warmed up and temp just fit!!! U r lucky man!! - R. Ng
Doing well. Don't push too hard yet. 20% done! Save those legs for the last 30k. - M. Anderson
Well done!! - Escapade Sports

I knew this was too fast, but didn't want to think about the past and wanted to go as fast as I could. It's still a long ways.

I was now in 27th place overall and 1st in my group of Vibram shoe category. Although I wouldn't know until 5 days later, I found out that Patrick dropped out at 52k. Also, note that the position was based on those who finished which was 135. But, altogether there was close to 200 runners. I think the team pair was organized in a different listing.

110:01+0:26Sandro Gianella
210:02William Davies
310:02Jermey Ritcey
410:02Lizzy Hawker
510:02Michael Maddess
11611:29-1:02Ng Seow Kong
13512:02-1:35Ng Joseph Sheung

I finally hit the third and last beach and was met behind by Thorsten Bruce. I use my running friends now as indicator of how I'm doing. Thorsten and I ran with him once we hit the sand. We trekked off together only to get bombarded by the wind at Tai Lo Wan beach. The head wind was crazy and I knocked into Thorsten dazed for a second. I used Thorsten as my shield since he's a big guy and we thrusted forward watching the waves crash onto the beach as in the distant courageous surfers hang 10.
As Thorsten bolted into the woods, Nora Senn came up from behind and said, "I told you I'd catch you by 25km!" How more accurate could she have been? Back to a short section with technical rocky crap that my little toe gets banged. This little piggy went wee wee wee all the way 100km. Sorry Mr. Pinky, I will try my best to not stub you!  My time eroded in this part of the hills as the section is littered with hazards for anyone attempting to run with barefoot technology. Eventually the track became cement for a long stretch leading us west and finally detouring out of Maclehose. The north into new territory which I again have no knowledge about except studying on garmin routes.

The next stage more or less hugs the coastline with less littered rocks and compact dirt. It was mostly in the treeline. Around 5 more shoe runners passed me as now as I was hitting one third of the way into the race and out of Wong Shek Tree Walk path leading into CP2 - 36k. I refilled my double pouched hydration bags with both Bonaqua and water. My stay lasted for 2 minutes and I headed off onto the road which finally headed into a village starting the next rough terrain.

110:53+0:55William Davies
210:53Jermey Ritcey
310:53Lizzy Hawker
410:53Michael Maddess
510:55Sandro Gianella
11512:56-1:08Ng Seow Kong
13513:46-1:58Ng Joseph Sheung

11:52 SMS: CP2 - 29k
Slow down now. Don't stop for too long at CP. Enjoy the scenery - D. McFee

Remember to eat enough water and go as planned! Drink - R. Ng
Next cp3 at hoi ha - 36k mark. You're doing well. Keep something in reserve for later. cp4 is at 45k - yung shue o. Good luck. You can do it. - M. Anderson

20 minutes dodging rock bullets headed for my toes, I hit another beachfront. LOST ONE are you LOST TOO? We hit the other side of the beach to find boulders to climb over. A group of us scratched our heads as we entered straight into the path instead of locating the entrance. No signs to help us as we couldn't figure out if the rocks led us to death or take a right back to the beach... After 2 minutes of frustrations, I took out my Garmin 705 Edge GPS and pushed a few buttons to get to the compass which already had the course plotted for the first 50km. I was back on track and asked if anyone would like to piggy back me 399m ascent uphill as I was their technical guru guide. Back into the woods and rocks again. This area was abundant with littered rocks everywhere. Finally after an hour, I hit the north end of Sai Kung called Hoi Ha.

111:41+1:37William Davies
211:44Michael Maddess
311:44Jermey Ritcey
411:44Lizzy Hawker
511:50Peter Lee
10814:25-1:07Ng Seow Kong
12915:23-2:05Ng Joseph Sheung

1:19 SMS: CP3 - 34k

Nice, keep on!! - R. Ngai
Welcome to China and use China Unicom's network. Please dial + for internation call/sms. Enjoy your journey in China. - 10010

Heading toward the west side of Sai Kung to Yung Shue O was just rock after rock. I finally completed a lot of dirt to find heaven for my feet as I ran on the golf course grass instead of the cement as I crossed the distance for a marathon run. Again, I only stayed a few minutes to replinish. Check point 4, Yung Shue O, 45km was completed. I knew the climb ahead of me was going to be steep and tough.
112:38+2:13William Davies
212:44Lizzy Hawker
312:45Jermey Ritcey
412:45Michael Maddess
512:48Peter Lee
10316:04-1:13Ng Seow Kong
12917:33-2:42Ng Joseph Sheung

SMS: CP4 - 45.5k, big nasty hill coming
Hey - you are fast!! Well dibe keep it up! I hope your feet are fine! - Escapade Sports
Halfway! Eat something warm and hydrate!!  - Danny McFee
Eh eh have fun - C. Guillot

Great time. 7 hrs for 45. cp5 kei ling ha @52 then cp6 is gilwell camp @ 65 where dwyfor dropped out. Lots of nice forest trail. Keep something in reserve for the push after 70k. Rooting for you ... You can do it! - M. Anderson

I dug in and reached the top from 0 to 399m with another gusty strong wind. Heading back down to familiar MacLehose territory, this section was short in distance. But, something was weird... I remember being passed by David Cole, Ho Yiu Fung and So Wah Hon. Coming down, they passed me again; but I never passed them.. or did I? I came into the halfway point at Kei Ling Ha feeling pretty good. I stopped for around 5 minutes to eat ramen and change into warmer clothing. Removed my camera and replaced it with my flashlight as I knew it would be dark within the hour. I was hoping to hit Gillwell campground before dark...

113:35+2:42William Davies
213:42Jermey Ritcey
313:45Lizzy Hawker
413:45Michael Maddess
513:52Peter Lee
9717:38-1:21Ng Seow Kong
12419:21-3:04Ng Joseph Sheung

SMS: CP5 - 50k, eating and changing for cold, Ok, I'm looking to beat my oxfam trailwalker time that I did with cushioned shoes

Stay steady and controlled man! Hang in there bro. Time for zen mode. Keep eating even if u don't feel like it. - Danny McFee
You are on a row! GO Joel! Amazing time!!! - Escapade Sports

Nice, halfway done! Eta? U have time for more practice - R. Ng
You are way ahead of our trailwalker pace. Watch where you step & keep RUNNING on the flats. Sub 19 looks possible. Give it your all. - M. Anderson

Leaving the area brought back memories of my Trailwalker event where I was able to sit down and eat a nice meal. Not this time! There is a steep road up and I walked it. On a good day, I can run it. But not this day! It's close to 500m ascent. From this point on, if you are interested in the terrain markings please check out my trailwalker blog as it goes into intricate details about the hike. Halfway through, I'm thinking it's taking a really long time to get to Gillwell. The sun has set and darkness swept through. I pull out my ski mask and zip up with another pair of long sleeved shirt underneath. I keep on drinking and sipping on Hammer GEL that I poured into my 7oz flask. It's mostly a walk for this area until it flattened out, and then I began to run with the headlamp.

115:32+4:24William Davies
215:32Jermey Ritcey
315:40Lizzy Hawker
415:41Michael Maddess
516:00Peter Lee
9720:56-1:00Ng Seow Kong
12323:38-3:42Ng Joseph Sheung

SMS: CP6 - 63k
Feet ok? Avoid temptation to linger. Cold wind picking up. Try to keep your HR at least 140bpm - Danny McFee

Excellent. cp6 is 65k. You're flying. Keep it up. Only 8k to cp7 @ beacon hill @ 73k. Then cp8 @ 83k. cp9 @ 90k Leadmine pass. Then FINISH. Will be cold later. If you can, wear more!! Drink hot soups if available. Keep it up joel. We're cheering for you. Listen & you'll hear us !!! Keep the sms coming until you finish. - M. Anderson

U can save ur transportation cost if u do it daily!! - R. Ng

2/3 done! Fantastic. You are doing great!! - Escapade Sports

I headed into Gilwell remembering the thought of losing one of our teammates along the way on Trailwalker. I felt pretty good except it seemed really long to get there. I didn't spend too much time here, but realized that my water was low and I didn't want to take any chances so I refilled up both on Bonaqua Sweat and water. Along the way I had a conversation with a woman and asked them if they saw any Vibrams that he passed by. She said, "I saw one guy after Hoi Ha and was he hurting..." I felt that my lead was decent but trying to calculate whereabouts they were in tune of my position. It was a worthless cause. This is lost #2 I thought, I hit the gate and wondered, do I go pass the gate? Spinning around and back tracking a bit, I figured it had to be the way. I went around the gate and there was a ribbon. Yes! Well, when it's dark, it is very easy to forget landmarks and directions. I couldn't plug in both maps of HK100 and Trailwalker, so I remember there was a period where I would go down a road for some time... I went down a paved road and it kept on going steeper and steeper down. Holy crap, I'm at the bottom of this road and I didn't see any markings. I went close to 1km and then it dawned on me - the road occurs once I get pass Beacon Hill. @#^*!!!!! I have to now walk all the way back up!!! This mistake cost me close to 25 minutes. Once I came back, I saw only one sign showing a quick right into the woods. Where were the X markings preventing me from doing this awesome feat??? They had these things all over the place. It really sucked and now morale was really low. I kept on going and finally hit Beacon Hill. I looked at my watch when I entered and it showed 73km. Did I just have a bad nightmare or what? I didn't really think too much about it, but realized much later when I uploaded my Garmin and Wah Hon (Eddie) So, commented I took a shortcut near Kai Kung Shan. But, I remember doing that and have a picture/video of the sign. It appears I got lost not once, not twice, but three times. So, although the distance turned out to cancel each other, my lost #3, was much more time consuming than the shortcut lost #2. From a rough guess, lost #2 (shortcut) saved me 6 minutes whereas #3 increased my time by 20 minutes. Oh well, it's not the first time I got lost and won't be the last. So, if you compare Seow Kong at CP6/7, after my initial surge for the first CP, I was relatively 50 to 60 minutes ahead of him. But, at the time, I had no idea where he was...

116:36+5:55William Davies
216:39Jermey Ritcey
316:51Lizzy Hawker
416:54Michael Maddess
517:11Peter Lee
9122:57-0:26Ng Seow Kong
12402:10-3:39Ng Joseph Sheung

SMS: CP7 - 73km: Damn, I got lost out of Gilwell campground and went to the bottom of the hills, 120m descent and back up. Lost a lot of time...
Stay warm, smile and try to laugh. Keep your spirits up!! - Danny McFee

Don't worry about the miss. Focus on the finish. Almost home. Think positive. 73k. Amazing. Keep it up. You can do it. Try to keep running the flats & downhill. Steady pace uphill. GO man GO. - M. Anderson

Wo, addddddddddd oil!!!! Be careful then - R. Ng

6 people passed me on this section and I kept on looking down at their shoes. Did my mistake cost me the barefoot technology race? It was useless to ask anyone if they saw any other Vibram shoes... I might never really know until the results came out. And low and behold. Holy shit! There he was! I said, "Hi, great you showed up". He replied, "Is something wrong with your leg?" I thought about my knee and it felt sore going down the staircases. I realized that instead of walking down onto my toes, I'd plant my right leg down one step and carry the left leg over. This isn't a very efficient way of walking down. We both got a little lost trying to locate CP8 as the cars blocked directions to the way into the CP. He and I had enough time to have a chat and I asked him how long he was training in VFF. He replied, "Almost 13 months." I said, "Nice!" Then the moment of opportunity came about. We entered the checkpoint, and he said to the volunteer, "Do you have any hot water?" YES! I grabbed a candy bar and darted off without refilling. I felt the water and it was half full. In this cold, I wouldn't need so much. I also observed that he wore no socks and a flimsy baseball cap from earlier this morning. The weather was down right cold and I knew his stopping would be the deciding factor in winning the unoffical Vibram shoe category.

117:29+6:33William Davies
217:31Jermey Ritcey
317:38Lizzy Hawker
417:55Michael Maddess
518:13Peter Lee
9024:420Ng Seow Kong
11603:53-3:42Ng Joseph Sheung

SMS: No TEXT because now I saw another Vibram shoe, but the virtual support still comes in :)
You will remember this race for years to come. You will tell you children & grand children about this super human effort. Don't let them down. Eat more! Drink more! Stay warm. - M. Anderson

Time to use ur spiritual energy, God be with u!!! - R. Ng

Are you kidding me? I didn't stop. This is for Sparta! This is for Hong Kong! I have to win this because I am a local runner and it would be quite humilating to lose to someone (now knowing I had close to 1.5 hour lead) because of a course error on my part. I just imagined that when I crossed that finish line, giving all I could, I somehow would be the unofficial VFF shoe-winner. Needle hill is tough when you've already done 83km and it was so cold I could see frost from my breath. I was saying to myself, if this guy beats me... He deserves it especially with his outfit. Even the monkeys weren't out and about. And why am I doing this? It's so fricken cold!!! As I'm originally from Michigan, Anyone that says you get used to the cold is lying through their shivering teeth. As I moved up Needle hill, I passed 2 cushioned-shoe runners. At the top,  I looked back, I saw 2 lights and a third. Holy crap. I got book it down this part! I will deal with my knee later and ran as fast as I could, which was really not fast at all. But, I imagined that I was running!

118:35+7:52William Davies
218:40Jermey Ritcey
319:03Lizzy Hawker
419:11Michael Maddess
519:31Rowley Aird
8602:34-0:07Ng Seow Kong
11606:09-3:35Ng Joseph Sheung

No walking. You must RUN down from tms to route twisk. Run forest Run !!! - M. Anderson

I passed some more runners and now headed toward Lead Mine. This is one long road going up as I was numbed and watch someone in front of me walking backwards as the wind picked up. My fingers were numb, so I tried to blow in them. It was stupid because I could even close my fist. As I looked back, it seemed as though the lights were getting closer. Oh, please find some god damn gas. Karen Wei just passed me before I exited the rough terrain onto very familiar asphalt ground. I just needed to find the strength up a 18% grade and it's all down hill from here. I kept on looking back.. I saw another light in the distance and it appeared to be coming closer and closer each time I looked back. As I entered the twisty road which I like to bring my tri-bike and ride to the top for a kick-ass workout, I knew I would be able to see the person once I came around and about the road as it switches back and forth. My heart sank, it was Seow Kong. Holy moly! What is he on???? I increased my cadence and sped up to a measely 10:00 minute/kilometer. On a good day, I can get under 3:50 minutes per kilometer. Right now didn't seem like a good day. It was still very cold, but the wind wasn't blasting into my face any longer. I decided to turn off my light because it's a road - no more rocks and I have one chance. I would block out his vision to locate the light. I wanted to stop the 'I see that guy in front of me - and I'm going to chase him down' physiology. As I saw the lights to the finish line, I wanted to cry.. I mean, not cry... I felt so joyous.

I did it! 99km and in my mind - I did it! I did the 100km in Vibram Five Fingers! I was the fastest man on the trails that day with the barefoot technology. No blisters, no sprain, no demons to haunt me.. I gave it all! What more could I ask for? hmmmm (sarcasm).... Personally, I was stoked. Janet Ng, the race coordinator, was there handing out the bronze medal. Five minutes later, I shook Seow Kong's hand and said, "Good race!"

119:48+9:07William Davies
219:54Jermey Ritcey
320:18Lizzy Hawker
420:31Michael Maddess
520:54Peter Lee
8405:01-0:05Ng Seow Kong
11307:59-2:58Ng Joseph Sheung

Done? - R. Ng
Well done sir! Great to hear you finished without injury. - M. Anderson

I collected my stuff as quickly as possible and got into a waiting taxi as I couldn't move a single muscle. I was exhausted! The End.

Other links to this race:

Hong Kong 100 Ultramarathon Supplies

Planned Items for the 100km race:

Night Before
1 scoop of Ultimate Nutrition Prostar Why Protein
1 Capsule SISU Cool B50
   50mg Vitamin B1
   50mg Vitamin B2 

   50mg Vitamin B3

   50mg Vitamin B6

   50mg Vitamin B12
   0.4mg Folic Acid
   50mcg Biotin

   50mg D-Pantothenic acid
   50mg Choline bitartrate
   50mg Inositol
1 Capsule SISU Mag Citrate
   250mg Magnesium
   250mg Malic Acid
1 Capsule Hammer Endurolytes

1 cup of ParknShop Oatmeal with 1.25 cups of water
1 Banana
1 cup Optimum Nutrition Whey
1 oz Hammer GEL (orange)

On the trails
Hammer Endurolytes - Sponsored by Escapade Sports

Hammer GEL - Sponsored by Escapade Sports
6 GU GEL (non-caffeine)

Chocolate PowerBar

Footwear: Vibram Five Fingers KSO Trek - Sponsored by Vibram/Escapade Sports
Shirt: HK100 Souvenir Shirt with sponsorship badges
Pants: 2XU Compression Tights
Hat: No-name brand Wool Knit
Face Mask: Half Face Masks-Half Ear
Gloves: Thin No-name brand poly gloves
Glove Shell: No-name brand Open fingered cycling gloves
Night Lamp:

3.2 out of 5 stars (26)
Glasses: Oakely Sunglasses

GPS: Garmin 705 EDGE
Camera: Go Pro Hero HD

Temperature/Altitude: Kestrel 4000
Hydration: Nathan HPL #020
Phone: Blackberry

Without stuff: 132lbs
With stuff: 140lbs

Sunday, January 9, 2011

KOTH: Lantau Mountain Marathon 30k


The KOTH races are meant for me as training runs to get used to wearing, running, and stubbing in Vibram Five Fingers Keep Stuff Out shoes. I was able to pick up a new pair of VFF KSO Trek from my HK100 sponsors: Vibram and Escapade Sports the prior week during a media luncheon. The Trek shoe version is designed to be much more stiff in the midsole providing a thicker cleated rubber outsole for traction and protection from stone bruising compared to the VFF KSO which I ran in Sham Tseng. The goal is to be faster and less painful. I was about to find out if this was the case...

The start of this race is very welcoming since it required a fast ferry boat ride in the morning from Central Hong Kong Island to Mui Wo. I was just a little earlier than usual just to make sure I wouldn't have any type of issues with being late. Once we arrived at Mui Wo with 95% of the passengers disembarking for the race, I met up with Vince again outside of the ferry and we decided to go for a light jog up to the starting line as others waited for a bus ride. I found out that the starting line elevation is around 100 meters above sea-level. It appeared that the jog was more than 'light', but a good way to test the new shoes out.

Race Start
I figured that this would be a tortuous event: "The full marathon course, on the other hand, offers some of the most remote sections in the series and the most testing climbs." stated by Keith Noyes. Actually for me personally, it's usually the other way around. I'm not very skillful at descending the downhills and using barefoot shoes adds an extra precaution which exponentially increased my time.

I like the fact that the race had a 15 minute window between the full and half marathoners since it gives more running space from weaving in and out of traffic in the initial stampede. Luckily, Vince had a spot very close to the beginning the starting line as he directed me to a 'reserved' space. I'm personally not one to go to the front and create a backlog, but if I was going to meet the deadline, I had to go out very quickly until I was met up with the littered rocks and stones. They have become my public enemy #1 in trail running. After two KOTH races of legendary criminal feets -- from multiple stone smashing of my little piggy toes -- My abrupt yelping was heard throughout the island. After the clock hit 10:00AM, I bolted out like a greyhound chasing Jeremy Ritcey and Michael Maddess as the course quickly headed for steeper grounds running from one stair step to another. This didn't last long of course, once they ascended ~500m to Sheung Tung Au, I was 5 minutes behind them and 17 runners back. The shoes at this time was going relatively well with a few smacks from a rock here and there. To keep things in perspective, like any difficult mountain/hill training, it's going to hurt.. and wearing VFF KSO trail running shoes there isn't any room for error. You have to constantly be thinking about the next 3 steps in front of you. It's a constant chess play of your foot and the rook. I believe that with shoes like VFF, the runner becomes very in tune with running form and surroundings. And if you aren't in tune, you'll soon be in tune with the a quick whack of a low sleepy sweeping foot driving into a soccer size immovable rock.

Once we started heading back down from ~700m, it became very overgrown and technical. I would recommend wearing gloves and arm warmers for KOTH races. I was able to save a lot of scratches based on my Sham Tseng race experience. There was a lot of grabbing branches preventing any slips or falls. Also, since the weather was quite cool in the morning, it doubled up nicely as a way to keep warm from the blusting wind at the top of Lantau Peak. The weeds became public enemy #2. Quite occassionally in the thicket, I would numerously find myself stumbling as my toe space would find itself caught in a net of weeds. From the last checkpoint, another 18 runners flew past me on the descent. Once out of the thicket, the trail turned into asphalt for around 5km edging the outskirts of Tung Chung following roads and sidewalks to the next ascent. By the time we reached Tung Chung checkpoint, I was able to have a great conversation with Nora Senn who always seems to reach me around 10-12km in whatever shoes I'm wearing in the ultra distant trail racing events.

The climb up to Ngong Ping is probably the most rugged trek I've ever encountered. The climb is very steep which required upper body strength to get up and over the boulders. Luckily, I had company with my trail running buddy, Thorsten, who went to Laos with me and he talked very highly of the walking canes for support. Heading into Ngong Ping, I lost my direction slightly and realized I wasn't heading toward Tea Garden Restuarant but quickly headed toward the Big Buddha which led me to the correct path beginning the Lantau Peak climb. This trail is pretty familiar since there is only one trail up to the top.

The climb up Lantau Peak was the best trek ever for viewing Hong Kong area. The visiblity was high. I wasn't passed by too many peeople going up the hill, but when it came to coming down.. I was in the lower 10% of the participants in terms of time. :(

After passing Tung Chung road, my time wasn't any better. There were a lot of scattered stones preventing me from getting in any decent speed.

So, you might be curious I've noted my position. Is it the fact that I like to talk about how terrible I finished in the end? Well, possibly. But, the real question I have for myself is how much improvement did the sturdier VFF KSO Trek give me versus my VFF KSO. It's difficult to measure this question because the two races are different grade/elevation/distance giving different times. Therefore, I'm just going to take a position of my overall splits between the two races:

Percentage position comparing VFF KSO (Sham Tseng)/ VFF KSO Trek (Lantau)
Position PercentageFinish
CP1Int 1Int 2Int 3Int 4Int 5
Sham Tseng22.6255.9582.1495.2479.7698.8182.14%
*Note: The higher the percentage the farther I am from the front.

In terms of comfort, the VFF KSO Trek are essential when using the Vibram products for littered stones on the trails of Hong Kong. Personally, going forward, I would only use VFF KSO for road races - the time requirement and pain tolerance to become comfortable on asphalt is much lower than trails. Running in 'barefoot' shoes require a lot of practice and patience especially on the trails. I would recommend anyone interested in trying it to go slowly and use practice runs instead of races to get comfortable. I will say, except for a few bruises and soreness in the bottom of my feet, I haven't had any other issues. With cushioned shoes, I sprained my ankle very easily on the same type of terrain 70km into the race and had to 'hobble' the last 20km. Check back again next week the full monty report as I go it again this Saturday for a full 100km wearing VFF KSO Trek. It would be nice to know that this type of training is actually doing me good (in the long run). I feel sometimes as though I am re-learning to run concentrating on my surrounding much more than when I had cushioned shoes.

I have more pictures of 85% of the runners who ran the full marathon course. Because of the cooler temperature at Lantau Peak, some of the pictures have condensation. If you see somebody you know, make sure you tag them. They could win a free pair of VFF's