My First 100miler (107 to be precise) Ultra Marathon
“Hong Kong Gone Runners FUCovid19 Miler challenge”
The shocker that was 2020
A year of unknowns, uncertainty & canceled races. 2020 has been a year where we have had to learn to adapt, change and modify as the year progressed. I needed a goal to strive for, something to train towards and between the Hong Kong Gone Runners (GR) Club and GR member Elliot Froidevaux, they had come up with a few personal challenges to see us through the remainder of the year. The virtual beast of the year in terms of running challenges presented itself: The aptly named “FU Covid19 100 miler ultra marathon”, my second attempt at the distance….
Pre race 100 miler prep
I had previously failed at my first 100miler attempt back in Jan2020 (torn calf) and wanted redemption. The “miler” is a bucket list item I felt I needed to tick off as an ultrarunner and felt it was now or never… The “GR FU Covid19 100miler” quickly became the new goal, the dream, that bucket list item. The longest distance I managed leading up to this challenge was a couple of finishes at the 120km Lavaredo Ultra Trail – this was a great deal further!
Adding complexity to an already tough task was the requirement to remain (mostly) self sufficient as no aid stations were available (virtual event and all). Participants had to carry all supplies and we conducted numerous pre-race recces, pin-pointing out all possible water stops and vending options available to us. Seconding was permissible, but I didn’t want to have to rely fully on this option and preferred to remain semi self supported for the journey. Hong Kong is lucky to have numerous vending machines open 24/7 at the entry to their country park areas and various noodle shops were open along the way. Approaching race day, the harder training blocks were behind me, the mileage had dipped off, taper mode activated, race day had arrived.
The ultra begins
After a very uncerimonious start, we managed to run together as a small group for the initial 4hrs or so. After a small mixup (wrong turns by some) I found myself alone and continued in my thoughts for the next 15hrs. This was not ideal. My plan was to stick with someone throughout the challenge but keeping with the theme of 2020, this didn’t pan out. My first down/low moment came just prior to the 100k mark as the sun was beating down on a brutal climb out to Sai Sha Rd, Sai Kung. Very steep with lots of stairs and minimal shade. After what seemed an age, and the climb behind me, only 72km remained…. ONLY 72!
I managed to join forces with my seconder and fellow GR, Joe Taylor. He handed me a baguette and a soy milk which I briskly devoured. I changed my socks and brushed my teeth (ultra trick). Together, we crawled through the next 20k+ worth of flat road running along the waters edge to Tai Po.
Elliot (the organiser and fellow Miler runner) had crept up on us by this stage and was a great motivation along this dreary flat section of the course. Walk some, run some, onwards we went. 800m run, 200m walk. 500m run, 500m walk. This became, undoubtedly, the toughest part of the course for me. I struggled to move along the “easy” flat road section, my legs unable to pick up any decent momentum. The company and walk/run/repeat cycle was the only thing getting me through these tough miles.
Slowly getting through these long tedious road miles felt like torture. I kept asking myself, “How do you eat an Elephant? ONE bite at a time. Bite, chew, bite chew, REPEAT” (Don’t take that literally, but any big task requires one to chip away, bit by bit in order to eventually finish). Breaking down the mammoth task into small chunks is the only way….
At 135k Joe peeled off and Elliot and I ended up sticking together for the remaining 37k. Into the second night we went. After a hefty climb we reached Tai Mo Shan kiosk for some well deserved Shiumai (local pork dumplings) and soy milk.
The onset of fatigue
The final 22k remained during which sleep deprivation and fatigue started playing on my mind. I saw numerous ghosts, tree’s started to take the shape of people, I jumped over a few roots that looked like snakes and a head hanging from a tree was the tipping point of my various hallucinations. What was in this tailwind mix? It was time to finish this thing. Just 6k worth of catchwater remained……….. Finally after what felt like an eternity, we could sniff the finish line. Running down the last 200m to the end point, broken, battered, but elated.
We did it. We had finished the 107 mile course. Just as we had started, another uncerimonious finish awaited us. Elliot’s brother in law handed us a celebratory Tsing Tsao as we finished the trail under a highway bridge at the end of Hong Kong’s famous Machlehose Trail.
Distance: 172.62km or 107.26miles
Elevation: D+6100 m
Time: 31hours 42mins
Shoes: Hoka Mafate Evo 2 (single pair whole run)
Shorts: T8 + T8 underwear
Pack: UD with Naked belt
Poles: Leki MTR
Nutrition: Spring energy gels, Tailwind, Vitasoy Soy Milk, many cokes, Shiumai, 1 x baguette
End beer: Tsing Tsao