Sunday, January 26

Vibram HK100 2014 - Doing the Race for the 3rd time?

Indeed it was exactly the question I asked myself when the registration for this race opened and got full in just few hours. Do I really want to do it all over again for the third time?

Photo credit to Tan Kim Lai 
Vibram HK100 was my very first overseas 100km race 2 years ago (year 2012), my second 100km run ever, my very first cold race. The scenic view of the Sai Kung Peninsula of Hong Kong brought me so much joy despite the great surprise my legs encountered on the countless stairs going up and down the several peaks of the Maclehose Trail. I also got amazed how well organized the race was and how well stocked of food and hydration fluid each station was. I was well fed each station then. It was an agonizing experience yet I finished the race in 24 hours and 45 minutes. I got my very first hoodie (black) and a finisher's certificate, there was no medal issued on finishers beyond sub 24 hours at that time yet. I remembered what I told PS, my Singaporean friend then after crossing the finish line with only few minutes apart, never will I ever do this again, and we both agreed that this race was more challenging than our experience of climbing Mt. Aconcagua, the highest peak in South America.

Yet the following year (year 2013), we run the same trail again. Just how the mind and body forget all the pain encountered and left with good memories of the race. Knowing that it will exactly be the same trail, I hoped for a better time finish, ambitious of grabbing the trophy that year. My thought, a year older, probably  a year wiser, at least on dealing on exactly the same trail. I came to the starting line with so much hope. But that did not become a reality when I suffered acid reflux before the mid part of the race and worst I got dehydrated on the remaining half of the trail making me go off trail every after few kilometers in the darkness due to the urge to pee yet very little or nothing will come out after all. I forced myself to ate solid food but to no avail and the remaining two hours was with no solid food at all anymore. I literally drag myself to cross the finish line with only seconds to spare for a sub 24hour time. I grabbed the bronze trophy and a blue hoodie. And the organizer started to give a beautiful medal that year that I also wish I could have.

And the 3rd year registration opened, I needed to decide. Do I really want to do this again? Yeah, I know I asked the same question on this post several times already, 3rd time to be exact. Just imagine how many more I thought about it then, asked the same question all over again at that time, countless times. For others who know me, I am just like that. Sometimes it will take me days to think and think and think. Questions here, questions there. What is so mysterious with this race that draw my interest? is it the stairs? the well organized race? the well stocked aid stations that other runners finish the race like having been to the grocery store grabbing variety of chocolates and candies? is it the crew? the runners? or just simply the festive atmosphere? Combining all these, it just brought me so much interest.

I trained for it, run mountain trails back to back on several weekends, run along races, speed work and intervals on other days, core and leg exercises too. I also tried several food and drinks to at least make sure I will have it tested before the race. Few days before the race, I pulled out my race results the past two years and look for possibilities how else can I improve things.

Race day came. Bernard and myself arrived at the starting an hour earlier than we expected, thanks to the ride that KK and Dennis offered. The starting line was still dark, we were the very first few runners who roam around, take pictures until slowly runners arrived. I met and had photo with few friends, lots of familiar faces of runners from other countries doing their own thing. Bernard has been pushing me to stand a little nearer the starting line, I decided to stay behind the sub 20 hour flag. Waiting for the gun start, I stand at the starting line with so much hope, praying that everything will turn out well as planned, at least for myself. As soon as we were released I just run my own pace. Despite the traffic of runners on the first few stretch of the trail, I just run on my own without even seeing Bernard anymore, enjoying my own pace. I always love the trail part, the road is always agonizing as I am always slow with it.

Bringing my chia seeds at one bottle and Gatorade drink at the other in my front pocket of my hydration pack and a bladder full of water, I become conscious of my fluid and food intake. I reached the first 11km on my expected time. The cold weather at the starting is now getting warmer as the sun gets higher. I only grab few cookies and chocolates, half slice of banana and proceed to the next station. The view is spectacular as expected but I did not bother to bring out my camera at all and concentrated on my running. The uphill is always a challenge but I find joy as always on the downhill. I just love to jump from one step to the other, from one boulder to the next. Just before reaching the 1st check point towards the beach I cannot help but get few shots then proceed on my own world of running. I arrived CP1 earlier than I expected, grab some fried noodles and rice, refill my Gatorade and water then proceed.

Photo credit to Azhar Azib 
I can feel the heat, despite the breeze on the hills. I am sweating all over and can start feeling the salt crystals forming on my skin. I  drink more of my electrolyte drink alternating it with my chia seeds and grabbing more of the solid food while reaching each station. Adding to the warm temperature, I can feel that indeed this is my first day of my period, I can feel the slow flow. Too late to put on a pad I decided to just let it be. Good thing I was on my black tights and not the grey one. It took me a while to reach CP4 and just as I was about to eat my noodles, I become so nauseous. I forced to let it out but to no avail. One runner advised me to drink hot water. Without taking anything I left the station. I know something not good is going on. While on the trail I decided to stop and started to bring out my nutrimeal (low glycemic protein drink). Never had I know this will be the start of my liquid diet. Alternating this with my chia mix and Gatorade drink now, I forced to take solid food but I just cannot. Been longing to reach the mid point for I know I have my buko juice and milo drink there.

Off for almost 45 minutes on my target time I finally reach Kei Ling Ha, CP5. I tried to get some solid food but I just cannot take it, get some soup instead and forced myself to take some. And my most awaited buko juice give me so much relief. Drink my mid magic pills supplements too. I can feel  I get better, I just cannot take any solid food. I grab some chips and my throat and stomach accepted it. After  I changed to my cold weather clothes and a visit to the toilet, I grab a bun and bring with me my buko juice, milo drink and a lot more nutrimeal, I left the station and maximize whatever light is left. Given my condition of not much solid food, I know this is going to be a long long journey for me to the next station. There were a lot more climbs which I get slower and sometimes stop and force myself to eat little bites before going to proceed.

Photo credit to Tan Kim Lai 
I reached CP6 really late. My hope of hot water was not available, I grab noodles but I cannot take it, I grab sandwich and forced myself to chew and swallow it. Every swallow that I manage to bring down to my stomach is a little victory. From this point on I only rely on my liquid nutrition:  nutrimeal, chia seeds, buko juice and milo drink. Alternating this I proceed to CP7 and CP8. My condition getting worst, my period getting heavier, I now know my drama on this race. This will be exactly the same time condition as last year. The ascend on the road to Shing Mun Dam and to Lead Mine Pass were all agonizing for me, it is as if it was taking forever. I always prefer the trail than the road especially the flat and the uphill part. It was not as cold as the other years, my Nao headlamp was kind to me this time and never died on me. It was a long push for me at the road before the descend to Lead Mine Pass. But as soon as I got over that part I just fly down, down and down.

Photo credit to Bernard Enriquez 
Reached CP9 15 minutes before 6:00am, just 5 minutes earlier than my time last year. Passing by the food station, I grab some cookies and tried to force to eat even 1 piece but still to no avail. I proceed. It slowly gets brighter again. I was so wasted on this part last year, this time with the help of my protein drink I can still feel the energy. Everything dawned in my mind, this is going to be the same story all over again and I am not happy with it. It was foggy and  cold, the visibility in front is just too low, I reach the top of Tai Mo Shan exactly 45 minutes to spare to sub 24 hour time. Really no difference. Every second counts, having my headlamp on my head which I cannot figure out how to put it off and  the trekking pole on my two hands I sprinted to the last 6 kilometers of the road to the finish line. 23 hours 52 minutes and 17 seconds. Just 8 minutes of improvement from my last year's time. I got my grey hoodie, my bronze trophy, and finishing time record and my World Ultra Trail series passport.

Honestly, I am not happy with how I performed, in fact it frustrates me. It dawned on me, given how I performed now and how my body reacted to the extreme situation, if I cannot solve my nutrition issue, I thought this could be the beginning of a slow end to my ultra races.  That gives me a heavy heart, I always love running, I always love to be with nature, I always love to be alone with it  and be one with it, I always love to compete, not with  others but with my own past performance. For 3 years, it's exactly the same trail but it gets tougher every year, it never gets easier. It was never any easier this year despite my being so familiar with the tail already. Now a question dawned on my mind, is it my training, my body or my age? The hormones probably as what my friend Amy said.

On this race despite my condition, it never cross my mind to quit, not at all. What then was I most afraid off during the race? That I will not be able to cross the finish line within the sub 24hour cut off. And I thank God I did.

God is just too kind to me. He always send people and situation to show me that I should be grateful for what I achieve, not to be too hard on myself. I thank one particular person, Andy, who constantly reminded me to celebrate the little successes that I made especially on this particular race. And knowing that few of my friends  and some elite runners on this race did not even got to cross the finish line due to some unexpected physical issues,  all the more it made me realize, indeed I should be thankful for what I did and be happy with it. I am always thankful and grateful to God for giving me the strength and the grit to endure despite my condition. I survived. I am thankful to the Lord for sustaining me and keeping me out of danger on those sleepy moments. It was another humbling experience.

I do not know how my body will be on the coming months or years but one thing I know for now, I will forever enjoy running with nature and be one with it. For as long as I can do it and be with it, I will forever  do it.

Every race is always a continues learning experience for me. There are things that I need to improve and work on and there are things that I should really work hard and there are things that already work well with me.

I have to love the road, be it flat, uphill or downhill.
As I noticed on this race, on the trail I push continuously on the uphill and run or rather fly on the down hill without any problem, passing by so many runners but every time I reach the road, almost all of the runners that I pass by catch up with me again. With this I know I have to work harder on my speed, but up to what point? Been doing it lately, I just hope I will find the motivation the push a little harder on my coming training runs.

Nutrition and Hydration
This is an epic fail for me on this race. I cannot figure out yet for now how will I ever improve things for my future races. But one thing that made me survive on this race is my fluid diet: nutimeal, buko juice, milo drink, chia seeds and electrolyte drink. I also had with me all the time my magic beans: for my immune system, for the muscles of my heart, for anti cramps, and for anti-inflammatory and pain. One thing I'd like to commend and be proud of is that I did not take any pain reliever (Alaxan Forte) or pain killer anymore on this race. My natural pain reliever pill works well on me now.  For they said, every pill of Alaxan will have a salt crystal that will stay on the kidney for 3 years and will eventually form a kidney stone. I really hope I will flash out whatever I had in my past races.

My feet has been so happy with my Altra Lone Peak trail running shoes. No blisters nor pain on the feet. The big toe box really worked well on my big feet. I used the same TNF pair of socks all through out the race and it did not give me problem.

The half shoe gaiter has been a big help as well especially in keeping the sand and pebble away from getting inside my shoes.

Nao Headlamp has been friendly to me and it lighted me all through out the race this time. Glad it finally did though I cannot figure out how to turn it off when day time came and since I was on a battle of few minutes to spare to the sub 24 hour cut off, I cannot stop anymore and put my headlamp nor trekking pole inside my hydration bag, I cross the finish line still with a very dim light on it.

Trekking pole has always been a big help.

Glide anti chafe, my very first time to use it on this race and it was a big help. I did not have any chafe on any parts of my body despite my sweating on day time. I thank my friend Andy for taking the hassle of sending one for me. It serves its purpose very well.

Hydration bag with front pockets has been a big help for I can put my two additional small bottle of two different kinds of drinks in front which is easily accessible if needed.

Vibram HK100 is my very first race for 2014. And I am glad I decided to push for it despite the many times of having thoughts of not doing it. It may not be a so big improvement on my performance, I may had few heartaches during the race but all in all it give me so much joy to be able to run again. It is always great to see friends and familiar faces, it is always inspiring to see how others perform on the race. I'd like to salute to all the brave runners who stand at the starting line, congratulate all the finishers. I commend a well organized race and thank all the crew and the volunteers for such a job well done.

I'd like to thank my family and friends who followed my progress on the race, thank you for all your well wishes. Thank you Altra Shoes, Elete Electrolyte Drink and SingPhil Ent. for your unending support to all my races.

And my adventure continues, now to the most difficult and technical mountain of the country, Mt. Halcon.


  1. Thank you for your awesome sharing ate.
    I am looking forward to 2015 to go for this race. Hopefully get to see you again na ? :)

    1. Thank you so much Kuya Melvin.
      Oh no, the 4th time? I really cannot answer that now but I am glad to know you will do this next year. I am very sure you will enjoy this race Kuya. God bless.

  2. Good stuff Cheryl! And yes both of us did it for the 3rd time lol. And yet I don't have an answer why!!! Haha. Sometimes it boils down to luck roo when all things work fine during race day. Some days just plain bad but we just try to make the best out of it.

    I guess I can safely say I'll see you in 2015!!!

  3. Thank you Yim. Huge congratulations for finishing strong on this race, We can really never get enough ha. heheheh

    It's too early to tell but who knows it will be a yes in the coming months :)