Saturday, September 20, 2014

UTMB 161.5km

Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc 2014

I've been running since 2009 doing various endurance races including multiple Ironman and ultra trail running mostly in Asia. While I consider myself an 'average' runner, I wanted to push my limits by racing in the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB). In 2012, I pre-registered for a lottery slot as this race is considered very popular, but unfortunately my luck wasn't so good and had to re-enter the following year. If you don't get accepted; then your odds double the next year and so, the second time your odds are much greater. You need to keep also in mind that you need to get official accredited points based on previous affiliated races that are greater than 42km.

To prepare for this race, I wanted to start the year by adding more load prior to my 100km races which included both Vibram Hong Kong 100km and Translantau 100km. This effort was named HYPERMAN which would include 10km swim, 300+km bike, and 100km trail run. Both run events were obviously slower but I was able to manage to complete both of them in under 21 and 24 hours respectively. Moving on the momentum, I decided to include 2 full Ironman races during the late and early spring in Australia.

Unfortunately, 3 months idle from summer commitments back in the United States prevented me from much long training. With only a month left; I planned to complete an Ironman 70.3. After this race, my plan was to do as many 30km runs as possible without breaking the system.

Quickly days past and I found myself in Chamonix, France with hours toeing others at the start line. The pre-race excitement was at its high with many sporting companies at the expo. This also included my sponsored shoe sole company Vibram which have been with me for over 4 years during my trail running adventures. They set me up with gear and apparel for the race which included:
* Compressports Socks

Unfortunately, this race became my first solo DNF, 7.8km from finish; the sad thing is I would have technically been DQ'd at 139.7 because I was 1 minute over the time limit. So, happier I was able to at least completed 161.5km.

Learning Points:
1. I am very very poor climber
2. Always get water and nutrition prior to leaving CP otherwise it will haunt you.
3. For more stability, don't run downhill with your poles..
4. Don't stay too long at CP (5-10 max)
5. Don't make this a team run, it's a solo race
6. If it rains, check feet no matter what; see foot doc if required. Don't wait until it's too late.
7. Extra phone, pictures, video, goPro WILL slow you down
8. Force yourself to shuffle on flats, walking eats time!
9. Get a watch that actually can hold a proper charge
10. DNF stands for Duke Nukem Forever!

Here are some segment Highlights:
The Start - rain, rain, rain!
Downhill to Saint Gervais: 343 runners passed
Downhill to Les Chapieux: 201 runners passed
Downhill to Courmayeur: 170 runners passed
Uphill without water/food to Catogne: 106 runners passed

I couldn't have done the downhills so 'fast' if it wasn't for HOKA One One + Vibram sole = Tor Speed WP. This shoe was meant for the trails with a sensational aggressive grip. With the muddy rocks and slippery sections of UTMB, Vibram soles provided great control and offered faster downhill speed. I've tried an older model of Hoka at UTMF (Mount Fuji) and found myself falling on my butt multiple times. It's really a stupendous shoe! This has cushion and grip.

In hindsight, it's obvious that my (lack of) training in the summer really hurt me. This is really a difficult race. To give you a comparison, my fitness certainly hasn't decreased much in 2 months; and when I did HYPERMAN this early year; my HK100 and Translantau 100 was under 21hrs and 24hrs respectively. The first 100km of UTMB was over 25hrs :(. The most important thing is that I didn't get hurt and can do this again sometime in the future. 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Ironman 70.3 Syracuse 2012

My purpose for this summer is to complete 2 Ironman's within 3 weeks apart. Ironman Lake Placid and Ironman U.S. Championship. So, I decided early on to do a 50 Miler and 1/2 Ironman to get me ready. My biggest concern was whether my injuries have subsided and this would be a great test. Unfortunately, my training has been minimal because of taking care of my rental property; but that's not really a good excuse...

It's about 5 1/2 hours from where I currently live in New York to Syracuse; so, I decided to drive up 5:30AM in the morning to give enough time to obtain a wetsuit rental (forget my in Hong Kong) and check in my bicycle and stuff. Well, I have to admit; I didn't read the paper well and I figured everything was in one place. WRONG. lol. When we arrived at the lake, the police wasn't allowing us into the park even though there was literally 3 minutes before 10AM. What gives? When I talked to some of the early people, they already had their bike sticker and I figured I made a little mistake. So, about 10 minute away by car - registration is in the Crown hotel. With a lot of time to spare we headed over to find that the pre-race meeting was going on in hotel building one (by accident) and then figured out that the race packet was in the next building. It seemed a bit much; but I had to come into the city to head over to Syracuse Bicycle shop to obtain my wet suit rental.

The IRON-GOD was good to me and the water was wet-suit legal by a degree or so. So, that was good news since spending $40USD for a rental would kinda suck if I couldn't use it. The only peculiar issue with this race setup was that in the race papers, the swim would be heading along the shore and back in a rectangular fashion. But, the course was setup heading out from the beach directly to the other side and then creating a rectangular box. Well, not a big deal. With the swim being completely wakeless; I was pretty stoked. Granted I am a terrible swimmer and needed all the help especially since I haven't done any swim since 3 months.

I love to not do more work than I have to, so being next to the left of the buoys is where you can find me on any swim race. Unfortunately, I don't do the 3 strokes and look - so I easily meandered outside and probably could have cut off a minute if I was more straight. Finally, I broke sub 50 minutes on the swim (Yes, I told you I am a terrible swimmer; especially being that I learned how to swim less than 2 years ago for the very first time).

Out of the water, and the volunteers pulled me off the ground as I struggled to remove the wetsuit from my body. And off I went passing my brother as he cheered me on to the bike transition.

The first few km out are easy flat and then you make a turn onto the first hill. During that period, I lost my salt nutrition :(. In the past, in every single race, I would cramp up quite easily. Luckily the humidity was low and the wet-suit helped me in terms of less kicking power to stay afloat and I didn't require it at all. But, if this was in the humid southeast Asia, I would have died!!!! The first hill, I was seeing terrible things ahead. People getting off their bikes, people pushing their bikes.. I was thinking?? Is it that steep? But as I was being passed by faster age-groupers, I pushed the cranks and kept on moving.

This course has a series of hills that increase in elevation up to 500m taking about 18km. Each hill takes a bit out of you but not so bad compared to Ironman Nice, France! Once you hit the top, you know it and the bombing starts.. At this point, I hope to add a few more pounds as people who were heavier were passing me at ease and I was gunning it full crank all the way.

I don't know the hill name, but there is one place where you can go down in less than 1 minute for 1km and then unfortunately, you get it by a wall of hill (probably the highest grade). It's never too good to be true!

One thing I want to note. I lost gears when coming down a few hills. How can I fix this??? Please PM me if you know! I hate not being able to go faster!

The run is 2 loops and a bit hilly in 3 sections. When I started out, a little cramping occurred in my muscles above the knee. I was able to eat the pain and it subsided. After turning left off the main road, there is a bit of incline. I'm talking to myself and saying, "DO THIS! Don't give in. If you walk it you will be over 2 hours". Yes, I know, my mind is too weak and yes, I walked it. Overall, this is considered one of my better runs. No major cramps! No major walking. At the end, I put it into the next gear only to find out I ran out of steam about 50m from the finish. I like to push it hard at the end to make it look like a 'strong' finish.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

The North Face 50M - Washington DC

Hi Endurance Athletes + fans! It's been a while, yeah? Well, after being injured last November, my blogging has plummeted - but I have endured and did some races; just not blogged about it.

Well, I decided to run The North Face 50 miler as a pre-race for the upcoming summer Ironman races. I felt like it was the right race to do since I used to live in Virginia and why not hit a race there since it would be a nice way to meet my old friends and get a good run out of the way.

Unlike Hong Kong where stone and cement is replaced by Virginia's lush green trees and dirty trails; where hot humidity is replaced with cool dry weather; where pollution is replaced with pollen, it would be my first debut to run a race on American soil since 23 years ago. Unfortunately, my training hasn't been consistent because of injuries; but I felt pretty good going into the race and had ample servicing at the physio and sports massage bench.

The race started at 5:00AM with about 45 minutes of night running. A headlight was required and so, I wanted to wear my camera since I didn't know when the light would be ample for the camera. I held the headlamp in my right hand and used it more like a flashlight. The course started/ended at the same place. It runs past Trump International golf course east into Great Falls where there is a 3 loop run. It's about 20km to the drop bag location which includes a few steep hills through the forest. The initial 20km was a mud fest and very slippery. If you ever thought about doing a mud run, there are many in America. I just wasn't planning to do one this year but the rain was torrential the day before stirring up overflowing streams.

As always, Jogger style; I went out pretty fast and then cruised about 35km afterwards. My biggest problem is that it's hard to not go fast initially. I think I should concentrate on 10-20km races as I might be better at them, but anyways; I'm not trying to be the fastest.

I think the overall going to the physio and doing many strength training and more stretching help a lot on this race. There was no occasion where my legs cramped up like previous races; but I did have a bit of cramping in my lats around 60km.

I saw probably around 4 other people wearing the new Spyridon LS Vibram Five Fingers. The shoes really were meant for these trails and the mushy soft mud felt like velvet. There were some rough rocks in a very small section of the race; but overall, the run was quite comfortable compared to the other old VFF KSO versions.

Overall, I'm very happy with my time based on my preparation and happy to see that I am back on track for a decent running season. I think the most important learning experience to tell is keep care of your body and please see a professional person whether it is in physio, chiro, accupuncture, voodoo or whatever your religion might be. Just don't be a hero and think you can heal the body yourself. That's just my opinion from a 9 months disability.

And if you get a chance to run in America, there are definitely fine places to race off road. Take a look at TNF and if you need more distance; I'm sure there is a race right around the corner if you search for it.

My results:
place: 136/320
bib: 188
time: 10:36:18
chip: 10:36:12
pace: 12:44/mile
AG: M36-45
AG Place: 39/86
Gender Place: 117/248
21.7 Mile Split: 3:51:22
28.6 Mile Split: 5:21:17
35.5 Mile Split: 6:57:14

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Vibram Five Fingers Spyridon Quick Review

Vibram Five Finger Spyridon Quick Report. Meant to go out for a quick 10k, but ended getting a bit lost and doing 28k taking close to 4:00. Here's the report:

Asphalt: [v] check
Pot Hole: [v] check
Sidewalk: [v] check
Gravel: [v] check
Monkeys: [v] check
Diamond Hill: [v] check
Concrete Staircase up: [v] check
Concrete Staircase down: [v] check
Single Track Trail: [v] check
Large Stones on Trail: [v] check
Trip over Root x 2: [v] check
Trip over Speed Bump: [v] check
Climb over Fence: [v] check

Summary: Of all the shoes I've worn, this one is PERFECT for Hong Kong! Very stiff and sturdy on the toe tops and arch support. Wearing toe socks make it even more comfy! I feel the LS version really beats the velcrostrap hands down. Everything I hit over or ran by felt like a knife cutting soft butter.

I think everyone will agree that Shui Sham Po, Monkey Long a** hill, Diamond hill, Shing Mun Reservoir Trail, Raleigh Wilson Trail, and sections of MacLehose Trail - I've covered all bases. I would have definitely raced with these if they were available before the HK100.

As an 'official' Vibram Team Tester, I give my full approval with this shoe type for most terrain in Hong Kong. The littered stone you might find on KOTH: Lantau or HK100: Section 4 might still have issues, but we'll see...

I think it's a good shoe to wear for my Ironman 70.3 Singapore. The feet feels quite tired on asphalt.. I think this could help!

Too bad I won't be doing any more trail races until fall...

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Standard Charter Hong Kong Marathon 2012

Start of the 5:30 Half Marathon

Intersection of the 8:30 Half Marathon

Willy Wong

One more Full Marathon 6:45 later in the week...

Sunday, January 22, 2012

King Of The Hills: Tai Po 2011

Yes, if you are reading this. I'm actually quite late on this race report!

Since I'm now training for Hong Kong 100, I really like to do this local race as it will prepare my body for the stairs and trail running. As always, I registered for the full marathon which is usually more than 30km. Trust me, even though it's not exactly 42km, the body feels like it did 2 marathons afterwards. Unfortunately, I am not able to compete in all of the KOTH races even though I'm enrolled for it, but I hope to also hit one more KOTH before the big HK100 6 days earlier.

The weather was perfect for running. It was quite cool in the morning. I stayed back a bit from the front and really pushed it initially. I really didn't have much knowledge of the course beforehand, but within a kilometer, the course is all steps leading up. I felt like I was getting past by a lot of racers on the hills. I suppose it's never been my strongest. This race I decided to run in my Solomon shoes.

The latter leg of the half heads down to the finish of the half marathon and this requires pure concentration as you weave in and out of brush and trees on a single track.

As the half marathoners finished their race, the second part for me was fairly flat. Around the 30km mark, I had some serious quadriceps spasms. Luckily the total race was under 36km.

I finished with a time of 5:14:30