Monday, February 20

Vibram HK100 2012

Vibram® Hong Kong 100 Vibram ® 香港100

The Vibram® Hong Kong 100 is an ultra endurance race that takes place in Hong Kong.  The 100km course starts in Pak Tam Chung on the Sai Kung Peninsula and covers some of the most beautiful scenery in Hong Kong, including remote and unspoilt beaches, ancient forests, nature trails, reservoirs and steep hills.  The course is based around Hong Kong's famous Maclehose Trail, but with some diversions to ensure that runners spend more time in its most scenic sections, as well as finishing with the descent from Hong Kong's highest peak (Tai Mo Shan).  The course involves a cumulative elevation gain of over 4500 meters and the cut-off time is 32 hours.  This is a unique, challenging and beautiful run for the trail running enthusiast and a chance to take part in an unforgettable event. (Extracted from event's site) 

the view of the trail that I am going to take up to the mountain
I decided to sign up and join the race and make some amazing memories! That in itself is already an adventure for me, taking the challenge head on, saying yes despite the fact that I know I will face on the actual race. Upon finally registering, it's a mix feelings of excitement and scared. I know it's going to be a very long run and despite that I want to take the challenge. Especially that it's going to be on a winter in Hongkong, how it will be running on the mountain slopes of this place on a cold weather. Inspired by some of my friends who did this trail before and those who wants to do for the first time just like me, I gave it a go. I made use of whatever available days left of me after my big climb to train for the event.

here is the elevation chart, towards the end of the race is the killer trail
I said to myself, I'll just have to goal of finishing the race, though having to run for 32 hours I cannot imagine myself doing it that long. After which I thought, it would be nice if at least I will be able to bit my time on my first 100K run, I'll just goal for that. Though having  a trophy would be nice as well but that would already be a super bonus if I will be able to do it. As I always mentioned on the past, I don't run fast, I just do it consistently and never give up while on the race and  while my body can. I run to develop physical endurance and mental toughness to prepare myself for bigger outdoor adventures.

So with so much prayers, I got so excited on the race day. I prepared the best that I can, and just made sure that I have with me in my pack whatever I needed in  the race. At the starting point, there are so many runners, 750 all in all both locals and international participants, coming from more than 30 countries. We meet our fellow Filipino runners, there are more than 10 of us running for this event and I meet some of my friends from other country like PS from Singapore and Seow Kong of Malaysia. It's great seeing them again.

The race starts at the eastern side of Hongkong, at Pak Tam Chung Park. As the  runners are released, it also is the start of my run/ walk strategy, having in mind I have to take this slowly for this is going to be a very long run but always making conscious of how my body is reacting to my pace and the distance that I have been running. And I am always conscious that I  should also enjoy the view of this beautiful place.  Upon reaching the start of the first trail head, it was already a bottle neck of humans, all eager to pass the entrance  of the trail and start doing the ascend. The uphill trail is  manageable and I am beginning to see the beautiful view of the mountainous part of Hongkong with body of water and islets in between. Reaching the first 10 kilometer, at the Support Crew station, there are already food. I grab some though I am not hungry yet. I am not mindful at all how many hours I've been running.

I manage my energy by refueling on each CP stations, sometimes taking some energy gels and gatorade drinks even before reaching the next station. Thank goodness for the food on each CP, that was a big help though upon reaching CP8, I just force myself to take something even if my throat cannot swallow anything anymore. Drinking some water while eating helps  me have something on my stomach towards the end of the race. I know I need to have food in order to sustain my energy.  The support crew and volunteers are really of great help. They are always helpful upon reaching each station, they help refill my bladder with water, offering what ever food I want to eat from the array of food that they have. 

It has always been a cycle that after each CP is a long road after which it leads to an uphill steep cemented or rocky trail up to the highest point of that area then a downward steps most of it cemented as well before it goes again to a road before it reaches to another CP. There are times just when I already enjoy jumping from one rock and boulder to another before reaching another check point, the trail leads again on a cemented one. I guess it is around 60% of the trail are either cemented stairs and trail and  road making the course really challenging. I can always do long treks on a real trail but not on paved and cemented one. But at this time I have to deal with it.

I am doing very well on each stations, I know my legs started to ache upon reaching CP4 but it's still manageable. I am just conscious I need to hydrate well and have enough sugar level before reaching each station for I do not want to have that same experience on my first 100K run. Having that in mind is a very big help for me. At CP4, I already wish I brought with me my trekking pole. It could have been a great help on the steep ascends. Upon reaching CP5, it already starts to get dark. It's a big relief I got to go the the toilet and after which I eat hot noodles. It keeps me warm on this cold temperature. I put on my headlamp, my gortex jacket, bonnet and started using my trekking pole.

Beginning at the half point from CP 6 onwards, I trek alone most of the time, my training in mountaineering helped me a lot to be more conscious of the trail signs, that helped me not to get lost and it never dawned on my mind to be afraid despite the total darkness on the wilderness. I also thank my resent climb in the big mountain, that helps me sustain the cold night and strong winds on those exposed areas of the trail.  It was the barking of the dog before reaching CP8 that I got so afraid I waited the next runner  to arrive.  He said I have to be afraid of the monkeys not the dogs. Whahhh....and he asked,  don't you have any companion from the Philippines that can join you trekking at this time of the night? So brave of you to do it alone at this time.  I told him all of them are already ahead and most likely are done and cross the finish line. With that I have no choice but to trek alone, besides I am having fun doing it alone, it's like having a date with myself in the wilderness. 

Thanks to Pong Pong Law for this shot
But it was on CP 9 towards the finish line that I wish there could  have been an injection that I can  temporarily take away even for just that stretch  of the route my feeling of pain on my legs. But ofcourse that is never possible, I just thought, giving up at this very moment is not an option at all. I can feel the pain in all parts of my legs up to the toes, I've been running/trekking for more than 20 hours already with very minimal rest. Where is the love of the Race Director of this race, just when one is about to finish, you have to go through this long challenging stretch again. I gave up my wish of having to finish the race on sub 24, but my only goal is  to finish it before 9:00am.  The 4 kilometer descend from Tai Mo Shan seems like forever, I've been waiting to see the arch  of the finish line or wish to hear a sound system, music or some  voice from an announcer at the finish line. But that did not happen soon. I have to run fast again  despite my painful legs and cross the finish line, it was 8:45am, that was almost 25 hours of extreme adventure without sleep at all. Painful but awesome adventure. I like the view so much, that side of Hongkong that I never thought exists. The awesome view of the mountain slopes and bodies of water on day time and the glitters of the lights on the streets and skyscrapers on both sides of Hongkong at night time is just really fantastic. I know I cannot see such magnificent view without having to go through that challenging trail.  I thank  my running mates for convincing me to join this race, I thank  the organizers for such a great event and  I thank God for giving me the strength to endure that long.

What helps:
1. Having been able to run the same distance before, I am very mindful when to eat and when to hydrate, in order to sustain the sugar level of my body.
2. Being conscious when to put additional layering of clothes and not wait for me to get cold.
3. Eating real food on every check points.
4. My experience in mountaineering, having been able to do several night treks before and  probably my being lead pack most of the time made me so mindful of the trail signs and making me aware that I should be on the right trail. I thank God I never get lost on this race.
5. My recent AC climb help me a lot on how to deal with the cold wind at the middle of the night.

6. When it was already around 2:00am, I thought of bringing out my music to keep me awake, though I only use it several minutes, it run out of battery but it helps.
7. Taking an all alert chewing gum, though the taste was really bad but somehow I know it keeps me awake.
8. Having Boy Bawang and Happy Peanut as my trail food on those dark stretch of the trail,  having to count how many I have put on my mouth made me awake on those wee hours of the night.
9. Saying the rosary over and over again especially on those parts that is so dark and I am alone trekking.
10.  Bringing a trekking pole, it could have been better if I brought two but one is better than nothing at all.
11. Keeping a positive happy thoughts especially on those moments that I am just alone.
12. I love doing the stairs, even when I did my  first outdoor adventure training almost 12 years ago,  than running. But on this race, it's a never ending steep ascend of stairs or a forever descend of either cemented or stairs made of rocks and stones. I learn to bless them and send positive vibes on them, that they will not harm so much my knees and that I never curse them, instead embrace the challenge with enthusiasm. I think that helps too...hehehe