5 climbs , cumulative elevation gain of 2,600 meters, 13 hour cut off time. And it’s my first trip to Hong Kong!
After a positive race experience in Sabah last year, I was excited at the prospects of signing up for another ultra-trail race. My plan then was to try and complete a single day/single stage race. However, those plans had to take a back seat, due to the final year of my undergraduate studies during the 2nd half of 2013. Despite not racing much then, I did spend some time scouring the Internet for ultra-trail races that were around the region. Despite the availability of races in nearby countries like Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand Hong Kong was the one that stood out the most.
Other than being a holiday destination, I’ve heard and seen great things about the trails in Hong Kong. Most of these accounts come from Singaporean runners who have taken part in races there, as well as Hong Kong runners who upload images of the stunning view of the trails on Instagram.
The Vibram Hong Kong 100 was the earliest race in the calendar (it’s now part of the Ultra-Trail World Tour list of races). But I felt that the 100km distance was a bit “too far, too soon” as I wasn’t specifically training for that distance in 2013. I eventually came across the Translantau race;previously known as Raidlight Lantau . The race appealed to me as it had a 50k category and was scheduled in March, giving me ample time to train after the year-end Singapore Marathon. I registered for the race in October of 2013 and thus began my training for race day. I’ am thankful to have my training partner and good friend, Andy, who has been keeping me on the edge of training week in and week out. Andy himself, will be taking part in this years Sabah Adventure Challenge, along with 2 other friends.
I was scheduled to reach Hong Kong on Friday at 1.40pm, the day before the race. But due to a flight delay, I eventually arrived and checked in at the Silvermine Beach Resort at close to 4pm. While at the hotel lobby, I bumped into other Singaporeans who were also staying there. As I had chosen to fly back early on Sunday morning, I only had Friday itself to explore the area. Thus, the first shop I went to locate was Lantau Base Camp. It was a small shop packed with loads of gear that easily outclasses the shops back in Singapore. It’s got every brand of gear including Salomon, Hoka, Ultimate Direction, Hammer, 2Xu; all in one store.
After getting my ‘shopping’ items from Basecamp, I headed over to the nearest grocery store to stock up on water for the race and food for dinner. I didn’t want to spend time looking for Halal food, so I ended up cooking maggi I brought over from home.
The strategy for the race was mainly to reach the next checkpoint within the designated cut-off time. The first half of the race consisted of many narrow single tracks and steep drops, which resulted in a number of bottlenecks as runners had to carefully make their way down these risky paths. The single tracks would eventually lead runners to the summits of various mountains, the never-ending stairs that lead up to them and their descending path to the next mountain.
I managed to video record the run till about 25km, after which I switched off my GoPro and focused on reaching CP3, a crucial checkpoint in getting some much needed calories and to recharge before pushing on. The food checkpoints were stocked with fruits such as oranges and bananas, instant cup noodles, bread, gummies, pasta, and later on meat. I opted for fruits and a little bit of bread before making my way to the next checkpoint. Coke is dope during ultra-trail races.
As I was making my way from CP4, the last checkpoint before sunset, a fellow Singaporean called out to me from the back, shook me on the shoulder and told me to keep going. I looked down at his calf to see an Ironman tattoo. The dude made my day and gave me hope to complete the race. As the sun sets, most of us were still running, and though I have ran night races before, this was the first time running through the mountains in the complete darkness; an incredible experience.
The last stretch would be running on the road back to the starting line at Silvermine Beach. The people there kept cheering runners on, even when some of them are not part of the race and happened to be around. That kept our spirits up and many of us cross the finish line, elated at what we just achieved.
Photographers were stationed at some parts of the course in the later stages of the race. Click here to see the full list.