Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Translantau 100K - Race Report

I forgot why and how I signed up this race, it was done one month after TMBT 100K last year, I certainly do not expect this race to be so tough, probably bcoz my mind has registered TMBT as the most suffering ultra I ever done, subconsciously it thought Translantau at a colder weather would be easier to do. The elevation has shown otherwise, it appeared that there will be 4 tough climbs throughout the race and there will be also some steep descents...

Physically I did not train as I planned, the biggest reason being the car accident on 16th Jan had put me in recovery mode for at least a month, after completed SCHKM last month, I was convinced that the back injury may haunt me in Translantau if I push it hard. Having done less than 300KM training in the past 2 months, using only Nuang Ultra 50K as the only benchmark to gauge my fitness and endurance, I really do not think this is going to be an easy race, especially when the starting time is at the midnight.

Not that I have many choices of trail shoes, need to use what I have

Long story cut short, having had 2-3 days of fever before departure to HK, I had the thought of DNS, the last thing I want to get is to DNF at 1st 20KM. Anyhow, I made it to HK one day before race, collected my race kit, did some shopping for runner friends and managed to get my dinner handled before finally lying down on my cozy small bed in a budget hotel at Causewaybay. As u can see in the photo, it is really just a bed that I am staying like a refugee camp, lol!

2nd day, make my move to meet up with babe Sebastian and brought him to do some shopping at Racing the Planet and finally made up my mind to get a pair of Black Diamond Ultra Distance Z-poles to increase my confidence in this race (ya, it sounds funny, but when physical fitness insufficient to handle the race, better get prepared with other stuffs). We proceed to take a slow ferry from Central to Lantau Island after lunch. Arriving at the port around 3:30PM , met up with Hong Lan who insisted to bring us to visit the BaseCamp to see if there is anything to shop. Frankly speaking, I almost wanted to buy the Ultimate Direction AK, lol!

I knew I needed some rest urgently, the moment we hit the hotel and gotten our room, it was already close to 5PM, immediately I unpack my stuff and get ready to SLEEP! lol! Trust me, an hour of sleep at this time can really save my life.

Waking up around 6PM, fever still there, hit the road to meet the rest for dinner, it started to rain a little, it looked like it is going to be bad for runners like me. Dinner time was considered earlier, we managed to get it done by 8PM, still leave me sometime to shop for necessary drink to fill up my bottles and possibly take another nap, lol!

Indeed I managed to steal another nap for about 45mins, got up before 10PM, dress up the race suit and took a cute photo with babe Sebastian before we walked to the Mui Wo beach, which is the starting line. At the beach there was already plenty of people, it was not crowded so dropping finishing bag took me less than 3mins.

Me and babe Sebastian

Lots of runners look very Pro, on the gears at least

Group photo with Malaysia runners, many are famous in ultra...

The weather looked good, no rain, looking at the other runners from HK and mainly HK runners, made me nervous as this is my 1st oversea ultra and there is probably alot more experienced trail runners. I kept telling myself to keep calm and race against myself. Then met up with some of the strong veteran runners from Malaysia, I feel like someone who just started to a 10K, lol!

Like it or not, the fear has to come to an end as the race flag off at 11:30PM sharp, I didn't have any specific target though I did create a cheat sheet (I like to call it this way) that contains details like distance to check points, estimated elevation, cut off time and my own estimated, ahem, timing. So I just follow whoever is in front of me, I couldn't find Yimster, he probably has sped off to stay ahead of the crowd, I only managed to see Roy and Chow, it's going to be a long night, so I decided to keep close to them as much as I could. 

My tiny cheat sheet that offered me the only guide in the dark

The journey for the 1st few KM mainly walking and stairs as there were a lot of runners at this stage and the route can only fit 2 persons side by side, I was not in hurry anyway, just need to use that time to get used to that climb and pay attention to my vital signs to see if my body feels alright. After awhile, I managed to warm up a little and there were times that I could overtake some runners, especially during downhill, while others using the stairs, I used my favorite side way which allowed me to run down instead of taking the steps. This was when I lost Roy and Chow. Occasionally I was stuck in human jam when the bush is tall and only allow single passing, I took the opportunity to finish bit by bit the Bee Cheng Heong I bought in CausewayBay, nice high calories food to crew while waiting for traffic to ease. So the run-stop-walk-climb-run continued for sometime, before I knew it, I managed to hit CP1 slightly ahead of my planned time of 2:30 hrs. Spent sometime to make sure I eat some banana and take some water then I continued after taking a pee break at the toilet (yea CP1 is in the village Pak Mong).

There come the 1st steep climb of the race which has 2 steep hills with a total elevation gain of about 1200m over 10KM, half way up the 2nd hill I heard someone shouting for help as he got lost, there was nothing any runner could do coz we can't tell where he was except the direct of his voice, I supposed any smart runner would run back the same way he came from, for this runner, probably a very fast one, I didn't know how he ended where he was and couldn't find his way. All I could do was wish him all the best, by dawn he would be able to see clearer where he was and find his way back.

The hills were tough, I almost thought this was the organizer's idea to eliminate most of the unfit runners to give them the impression that this is not a race that anyone can join, at least to my knowledge one must have at least completed a 50KM trail race b4 signing up. May be the latter part of the race was even tougher that I almost forgot how it felt like to get through this section. I knew I gained some advantage going down hill as my legs were still strong to handle the stairs, to my surprise, I was ahead of my own target time by 30mins. 

CP2 had significantly lesser people but these looked as though they had arrived here for long time, I started to feel tired and forced myself to swallow as much banana as I could and had a cup of hot tea to stay warm. I saw the famous female ultra runner Seow Ping there too, can't tell if she arrived 1st or myself, but one thing for sure, the 1st part of the tough hills was done, CP2 to CP3 would probably be easier, well, probably...

Tiny spikes in an elevation graph like this could mean many hills

Little that I knew, the tiny tiny spikes on the elevation graph unlimited ups and downs in the woods. It was harder than I thought but the trail very much "run-able", reason being part of this section was on the road before another hilly climb, I managed to stay ahead of target time by 50 mins. By the time I reached CP3 it was already 7:30am, I started to feel hungry and luckily instant noodles was served at this station, though the water was not hot enough to cook the noodles, I just have to settle with what was offer. At this time, I decided to take longer break, so I took out my phone to stay in touch with the world to know how were they doing with MWM and to find out if Sebastian able to make it to the cut off at CP2. Eat up, Drink up and kept my headlamp, I left CP3 around 7:50am, muscles frozen up while I took the rest, I had to take a walk to slowly warm up the body and muscles...
CP3: 1st chance to take out phone to keep myself normal by talking to friends and post in FB

If I recalled correctly, CP3 to CP4 has alot of false peaks, when I thought I have crossed one peak, another peak will be ahead of me again and over again, it was mentally torturing until I lost track of how many tiny peak I have crossed, before I lost my consciousness, it was another down hill dash where I had my 1st and only fall in this race, this time, it took a toll on my left knee, I was pretty sure it was a rolling fall, but somehow my knee felt not right since then, with more than half of the route to go, I cried a little bit inside.

Reached CP4 around 10am, I was ahead of my own target time by more than 1 hour. But I wasn't feeling well, the legs were sore and the tummy is empty, I am glad the organizer prepared some chairs that I could make use, prepared my Pocari sweat drink and Purple dust here to get ready for another round of hills from CP4 to CP5, had another cup of instant noodles, resting too long again is bad for the body, I felt cold and muscles frozen up again. Left CP4 around 10:15AM, I could recall the departure time this precise because I spent the next 2 hours to work on my new estimation for finishing time, and I found out that I had always referred to my watch as the actual time, meaning to say when it showed 10:45, it actually meant time elapsed into the race, in actual clock time, it was 10:15AM, we started the race at 11:30PM the night before. I only noticed that when I suddenly realise I was losing time although I was ahead of target time, that 30 mins error tortured my mind, lol!

My fenix was left with only 45% of battery, I think the cold weather and my constant check on the elevation gain and time lapsed has consumed much battery too, I need to stop myself from doing that too often, otherwise the GPS tracking won't last until CP8.

At the start of this section I finally say hi to another runner whom I believed he was the same guy who ran with me at the final few KM of TMBT 2013, yes, he was, the very guy who refused to recci the route when both of us got lost during TMBT and he dare to tell me at that time he took gel to overtake me and he didn't want to waste too much energy on finding the way when we were both lost. Anyway, he was fast uphill as he was using 2 poles, did I mention I only bring one with me ? lol ! So he left me behind when it was the uphill sections, we met many times from CP4 to CP7 (and I left him behind permanently at the downhill from Lantau Peak and never seen him anymore)

This was the only section I saw photographer and managed to get photos taken (see, joining short distance races probably get plenty more photos than this one...)
As you may see, I came from the tiny trail behind and u can pretty much assume the one in front of me is the same kind of trail, longer further and beyond where I can see. Personally I quite like this section as it wasn't cold like in the morning and I am in the open trail where I can have nice views of the mountains, though the ugly truth was I had to cross everyone of them, yes, the views were the routes, you don't just get to view them, but get on them and step over, lol!

Have to pretend you enjoy the race, otherwise photographer not happy..

Met her many times on the hills, unfortunately she decided to DNF after 57KM at CP5, we shared the journey from CP2 - CP5, a short chat with her to find out that last year she did until 80KM+ and DNF, she blamed it on the wrong shoes and this time she got HOKA One and still the suffering is too great that she decided to quit while it is still easy to do so. The reason being, CP5 is the only check point in the town, in a school compound in fact, so here she could just report DNF and take the next bus back to Mui Wo.

CP5: already cross mid point and changed into new top.

CP5 came a little further than I thought, coming down from hills we had to run quite a distance crossing a bridge and enter the town to reach the school. At this point, the weather is much warmer and quickly I change into new top (CompresSport) and had my 1st potato soup and lotsa oranges. Making sure I have my Purple dust drink replenished as I pretty much need caffeine to ease the soreness on both thighs for now. By the time I left CP5, I was almost 14 hrs into the race.

Coming out from CP5, it will be a few KM of running into the village and some normal trails where I got to meet alot of day hikers or visitors to Lantau Island, I was kind of like taking easy pace to walk/jog coz I know there will be a close to 600 metres elevation later part of this section. After some walk/jog with many encounters of non racers, including some parts of the village where there were people playing chess/mahjong outdoor and someone was selling drinks outside the house to the runners, that explains why organizer asked that u bring HKD100 with u and allow purchase of supply outside water stations, lol! So 6KM passed in civilization and I suddenly saw a number of runners in front of me taking drinks and adjusting their hydration bags, I looked up to where some of them moving to, I saw an uphill climb on tiny trail...

This is not normal elevated climb, this is steep 45 degrees climbs, not stairs, just steep climb, for the next 3KM! If anyone were to do Translantau 100K to fulfill the dream to be an ultra trail runner, this section would kill that dream. It was no-bullshit-straight-up climb and it was in fact hard to allow another to overtake due to the limited space on the trail, hiking poles may not work here (IMHO), the only support seemed to be the plant root. At times when I looked back, I can't believe how high I had climbed, as I look up, I cursed the trail lead all the up and only up. After this brutal 3KM, I found myself under one of the tower for the Lantau 360 cable car with 2 fat dogs sitting there. The next 3KM was not too tough anymore and I finished this 12KM section in 3:30 hrs, longest section in the whole race.

CP6 is a repeat of CP3, same place, but diff energy level and mental stress, I knew I have got 2 hrs left before the sunset to cross the next 5KM which was the last high peak and steep descent. Swallowed some bananas, took another cup of instant noodles and carry another banana for the trip, off I go. The following 2-2.5KM was simply unlimited rocky stairs leading all the way up to the Lantau Peak, along the way up, I get to view the Buddha from a distance above it, the view is awesome. By the time I reached the peak it was almost 5:30PM and the wind was blowing with the mist covering half the peak, it was so cold that half of my glasses fog up and I can only see with one eye. The only thing that kept me going was not to catch cold at this openly exposed area, I had to keep moving to cross it and head straight down.
What was covered by the clouds is where Lantau Peak is, i think.

To my surprise, there was a volunteer hiding at the peak trying to pass me a power gel, really salute his patience to be here enduring the cold wind and to support runners crossing the peak. Coming down from peak was all the way on the ridges of the hills, exposed to cold wind blowing from the right, at this point, it was more like escaping from the wind for as fast as I can than to do a descent run. I knew one thing for sure, I almost didn't stop at all on the 2-3KM down hill, overtaking few runners that gain advantage going up hill before me. I made it to the CP7 before 6:30PM, 2hrs ahead of my planned timing. CP7 again was a repeat of CP2, It was getting dark and I heard from the volunteers there was to go for sub 24 hrs, I think they are crazy, lol! 

I left CP7 just before sunset, and slowly walking into the dark, again. The following 21KM sees the maximum number of WTF from my mouth and in my mind. My legs were so painful that I can hardly run, and due to the dark surrounding, travelling alone, it was a safer choice to walk rather than run, missing any reflective marker or trip over a stone may cost hefty price especially at this point of time, the concentration of the mind was greatly reduced without a companion to assist in illuminating the path and checking for markers. That reminded me that in this race, many are running with buddies, those who were not, were not keen to travel together. A very lonely 10KM I must say, and lots of WTF due to all the tiny spikes on the elevation graph, at some point I got very frustration with the unlimited turns and stairs. A 10KM that took me about 2:40 hrs to complete ended with another round of down hills stairs.

When I reach CP8, I couldn't stop, not that I do not wish for a rest, the weather start getting colder, to some extend I was shivering while walking to leave the CP and head for another, probably the final hike in this race. This section was really WTF as I can see the lights from the headlamp of other runners in front of me, in other words, I was looking at people 100m up in the hill peak and it was just too exhausting to climb the stairs... It had been more than 24hrs of no sleep, I started to feel like vomiting, the only way that stop me from actually throwing up was to focus on continuously taking long deep breath to increase the oxygen intake, tiredness will make one's breathing shallow and may end up causing more problems to the muscles and mind concentration.

There were 2 peaks at this section (Lo Yan Shan) and both posed potential exposure to cold wind at the peak, so u may imagine me catching few deep breaths right before the peak and running through the peak as fast as I could just to reduce the chances of getting kissed by the wind. Coming down from the 2nd peak was another 7-8KM of up down and at some points I had to turn the walk into a jog and even a run just to keep the body warm. Eventually I arrived at CP9, totally exhausted and cold, took me almost 3 hrs.

The final 5KM was the only section which I get to have companions, a couple from China decided to walk after being told by the volunteer that it was just another 5KM along the coastal road to the beach, we believed him.... I picked up some hot tea with my bottle to keep the body warm and to warm the hand as well, given that I was not planning to chase any timing, I walked with the couple. In the chat I found out that the girl did about 15 hrs in the Vibram 100K this year and she found that this race is so much tougher than Vibram 100, and she was one of the few runners that overtook me at uphills and flats and overtaken by me at downhills many times from CP5 till now.

At this final 5KM, any kind of tiny elevation would feel like a huge burden to the thigh and knees, just when I thought my Fenix would survive the whole race, it went dead after 2KM into walking. Knowing that it was another 3KM to go didn't make the route any easier, though we no longer travel on trail, the hard surface of the route is bad enough for the legs and finally I decided leave the couple and run instead of walking, saw some sign boards showing the direction is toward the port and at final km, I exited from the route and return to civilization, ran pass the petrol station near BaseCamp where I met some uncles having tea outside of the shop directing me to take the alley and saved me from taking the longer route. I saw many runners here, those overtook me earlier between CP8-9, they were walking like zombie under street light.

I knew I can still run and I knew exactly how far to go from here to finishing line, so I pace myself comfortably to keep warm and to gain some momentum. At the final bridge crossing to the beach I met many runners who had completed the run and they gave great encouragement to support me to finish the race all the way from there. At the end of the finishing path, was Hong Lan waiting with her warm smile and camera, I was pretty sure she won't want to hug someone who didn't shower for more than 24 hrs. So that was it, no final sprint, no jumping, it was simply the zen of completing Translantau 100K with much suffer and cursing. Looking at the video, u may feel the same as me when the volunteer asked me: 50K or 100K? lol! Did I make it look like I just finished a 50K beyond the cut off time ? 

So I went picking up my drop bag and ditch the plan to change clothes, went straight back to the hotel. On the way, I got to know from Hong Lan that none of the people that I know has returned yet, not even Yimster, Charlotte and Seow Ping, something might have happened. and it got me worried when she told me Roy and Yen Erl tracking stopped around CP7/8, coz I can't imagine anyone doing the Lantau Peak at night. Glad to know that Hong Lan completed her race, can feel her excitement when she told me that, :)

This was 7 hrs post race, going down for breakfast

I just have to, lol!

1st time seeing the sun
yup, stairs, another day may be.

Did I tell you along the route from CP7 to CP9, there were alot of huge land mines left by these famous animals in Lantau ?

Post Race:
Did I suffer any injury? oh yes, my left was injured from the fall and it took me a week before it was completely healed, so it wasn't really a knee but a knock on the tissue around the knee.

I spent the whole of Sunday with Sebastian, travelled by bus to the Ngong Ping, walked alot around the temple, almost took the cable car, then took bus to Chung Tung where a shopping mall for factory outlets sales is located, which was also the other side of the cable car terminal. One whole day of walking and stretching on the bed before sleep got me alive back on Monday, mobility had improved while soreness still there, but I felt so much better than 24 hrs ago. To my surprise, I was recovered from the race in the next 4 days with a little of soreness over the shoulder which I didn't pay attention to stretch.

Word of advice?
Ultra trail is a race of Distance, Elevation and Techniques, anyone who want to do ultra trail needs to train it as though it is a triathlon, and incorporate these 3 elements into your training. Especially for road runners venturing into trail, u need many different sets of muscles in running high elevation trail, all the joints on your body will be tested as balancing and navigation of path ahead will determine if u fall miserably on the mud if you are lucky, or on the rock, or not. Some trails can be very technical, Translantau is one, running down stairs or steep hills and taking corners while trying to not exhaust too much on the knees and ankles require not only strong quads and calves, you will need to draw a path of your own and decide your options, u need to analyse the sections ahead and prepare yourself for that. Apart from that, running in the dark, the flash light from your headlamp will flatten the uneven surface especially going down hill, u will need good judgement of the depth of field and at times you may not even see the path due to the overgrown bushes, body senses will be useful.

Nutrition , Hydration and Conservation. This is not a 10K speed race (or a frequently supported 42km), your next supply could be 10-15KM away, u need to know how much energy you need to cover the distance and elevation and what will be provided in next check point, in other words, prepare sufficient food. Choosing the right food is another knowledge, I myself have not fully figured out what will be the best combination for myself, so far I know Raisins and Sunflower seeds works best for me. Hydration, that boils down to the hydration system your use and what drink do u put inside the bottles or bladder at which section and when do u drink. Conservation is my formula, prepare yourself to complete the race longer than you think, conserve your energy at all time, any mistake of missing the marker could mean additional 3-5KM of walking/running, that means conserving your drinks will help too. I leave the part of selecting the best fitting and functional hydration bag to your own discovery.

Find your Strength and know your Weakness, then get to your Zen. As my favourite quote: Knowing what u can, will carry you far, knowing what u cannot, will save your life. Nothing feels better than knowing what are your strengths in any race, and by acknowledging your weakness, you can work on it and minimise the effect it may bring during the race. and anything can happen in the race, the route may not be as u visualise, the hills could be steeper and longer than you thought, the energy level may drop faster that you wish, the weather will be always out of your hand, at this point, the only thing u have in control is yourself, always place yourself back to the center of your own zen (which only you can find and decide where and what is that), and depart from that center (and u may still curse and scold and whine along the way).

I can only share from my limited experience with a 50K and 2 100K trail race and a history as a hiker (that allowed me to adapt faster and survive better in trail), what I share is only personal learning and opinions, coz it works for me, a good runner would not rely on one resource to form the overall understanding of a topic, most importantly, it can only be verified and applied when you actually set your foot on the trail.

Looking forward to see u at the next trail race starting line. :)


suremax said...

Great write-up. Thanks! - Gan

suremax said...

Great and detailed write-up. Thanks! - Gan