Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Vibram Hong Kong 100 Ultra Trail 2013

It has always been my dream to do a 100km race,either a road ultra marathon or a trail ultra marathon.Two years ago I almost sign up for Singapore Sundown ultra marathon 100 km but "chicken out" at the last minute.It was due to the fear of the distance.

After TMBT 50km in September 2012 and seeing so many ordinary runners who were able to complete the TMBT 100KM really inspired me to take up the challenge again.It took me some time to consider joining Vibram HK100 and by the time I made up my mind,the registration has closed. 

With the "can do" altitude,I sign up for the charity place in order for me to participant.I have to pay HKD 3880.

After securing a place then came another problem.No time to train.I was actually in the middle of my preparation for my Part 1 MAFP/FRACGP examination.In between study,working and family life,I tried to do some running.The longest run I did was a 25km during the Newton Run.The longest hours of training was 3 hours and the highest hill I climb was the Kepayang Hill near my house (a low hill which take normal walker 15 minutes to reach the peak).I was feeling worried knowing my fellow runners who trained very hard by doing long runs back to back and climbing stairs in Batu Caves.

Since there were no runners from Seremban for this race,I contacted my friend Dr Wong from Kuala Lumpur who agreed to share a room with me in YMCA Salisbury Hong Kong.We stayed there for 4 nights.Friday was spent collecting the race pack and doing some shopping in Tung Chung.

Woke up at 5:00am on Saturday morning to get ready and doing a last minute checking before leaving our hotel for the race.Met up a Singaporean runner who stayed in the same hotel.We took a taxi to the starting point and it cost us HKD 160.(not too expensive). After deposit our baggage-one for the Check Point 5 @52km and another for the finishing,we walked around looking out for familiar faces.Many runners were looking happy,chatting and snapping pictures.

Race started at 8:00am.The weather was still cold with no sun light.It was a relatively flat terrain for the first 11km until we reached a dam.Many runners stopped to take pictures.Then it was walk,walk and walk all the way until Check Point 1 at 21km.I arrived at 12 noon just in time for lunch.I have no appetite to eat so just took some fried rice,noodles and drink.The foods were not as great as describe by runners who took part previously.

After CP1 we need to run across a beach.There were two girls in shark costumes promoting anti-shark fin cheering runners.They were busy cheering the runners to the extend that they forgot to direct runners to the proper route.I just follow those runners in front of me and finally we ended up on a hill across the beach.Then a Hong Kong runner told us that we took the wrong turn.We turned back to the girls in shark costumes.They apologized and direct us to the proper route.It was frustrating as we lost some 20 minutes and the precious energy.

Then another problem cropped up.My stomach doesn't feel good and I stopped to look for a toilet.After finished with the toilet call,I noticed that I have lost my new head wear which I bought for HKD 200.  .It was too late to turn back to look for it.It was uneventful walk all the way to Check Point 5 at 52km mark.I can't remember much except it involved many ups and downs through Hong Kong country side where I can see many old abandoned building,cows and many cow dungs along the route.

I reached Check Point 5 at 7:30pm.It was dark as daylight is shorter during winter time.Surprising I was met by Terence Poon at CP5.So fast?Actually he sprained his ankle and has taken the ambulance to CP5.He advised me to change and eat fast before heading out again.I told him that I just wish to finish by 32 hours and so there was no need for me to rush.I spent 1 hour at CP5,eating,changing to new clothes,replying sms to family and friends who have been sending encouraging messages to me throughout the day.

At 8:30pm I left CP5 alone.It was dark with no runners behind me and occasionally I can spot some blinking headlight a distance away in front of me.The journey from CP5 to CP6 was a torturing long 13 km trail  involving climbing the Ma On Shan.It was a dark windy and cold night.I was walking at the edge of the mountain and occasionally there were strong winds.In the middle of the darkness,I heard someone calling out my name.I was so surprised...someone knows me??It was Dr.Felice.She was tired.She asked me how long more to CP6.I said I don't know.I don't have a GPS.I just walk following the markers.  

I was tired and sleepy too.I have been awake since 5:30am, for about 18 hours.My mind was tired.I need to sleep.I told Dr Felice that I will sleep when I reached CP6.She was feeling nausea and giddy too.This was real torture...sleep deprivation.I saw one lady runner who slept on the trail while her two male friends sitting next to her.Even my new found friend Azahar from KL admitted to sleeping under a tree in the middle of the cold windy night.Nothing to feel ashamed of.Our mind and body needs some rest too. 

Finally after 4 hours of walking in the dark,I reached CP6 at 12:30am.The first thing was to grab some foods and to look for a place in the tent.The tent was occupied by a few runners who has gave up and they were waiting for transport to bring them out.I was lucky as the shuttle bus arrived to pick up those who quit.Immediately I grab two thick blankets,covered myself and lie down on the cold floor.I managed to get some rest and sleep despite my sweaty body and wet clothing.Then more runners arrived and few gave up.They withdraw from the race by handling over their bibs to the person in charge.Late comers have to cover themselves in an emergency blanket while sitting outside the tent.I was comfortable and not leaving my position as I don't want others to take over my sleeping place in the tent.

At 2:00am,Dr Felice got up and preparing to move on.I really salute this brave and determine lady.She was going to continue to CP7 alone.I told her I am not going.I want to stay on longer.I requested to the person in charge of CP6 if I can stay on until 4:00am.No!!Either you leave by 3:00am or you are disqualified.Then I knew there are cut off time for each CP.I was in a dilemma.For the first time,DNF came into my mind.Give up and go home?or stay on? Luck was on my side.I saw Leslie and group (Azhar,Joshua,Ms Lee) were resting and eating at one corner.Leslie invited me to join them for the journey to CP7.

At 2:30am,five of us starting our journey to CP7.I felt better as I had about 2 hours of rest.Azhar was in top form too after a short nap.He was eager to run.I can still remember him calling.."Foo,mari kita lari!"I told him I will only walk.I reassured him that we will get to next CP in time before the cut off time.Just need to continue walking.

CP7 was at the top of a hill.We can hear loud music from far away.They set up a bonfire there for runners to warm their body.We (Leslie,Azhar and myself) spent about 10 minutes in CP7 before heading for CP8 as we were in a hurry to beat the cut off time.Ms Lee was looking too sleepy and tired.We had to "abandon" her at CP7.  

CP7 to CP8 was relatively flat and certain part was down hill tarred road.At CP8,a friendly Mat Salleh lady who was part of the organizing team inquired if I am from Malaysia.From Malaysia or Borneo?Eh..??probably what she meant is if I am from Peninsular or East Malaysia.Then she told me the next 7km to CP9 will be very tough."You have to climb this mountain (as she was pointing toward a mountain) then go down and another climb before turning around toward the Tai Mo Shan (pointing towards another mountain)".To me...all those mountains look the same to me.Finally she added:"if you want,you better quit now.Once you are up there if will be difficult".I said:"NO!" i am not quitting.Only 17km to go.On my way up,I wonder why did the lady encourage me to quit.Do I really look so torn down?Temptation comes in many forms.

By looking at Needle Hill (picture above) when one is tired will be very demoralizing.Such a steep and high climb.Mentally,one has to be strong.The next 7km I kept reminding myself that I can do it.Sure will be able to finish before cut off time of 32 hours.

Upon reaching CP9,the final check point before the end,I have lost my appetite.I just couldn't eat.I just took some drinks-Coke,one bowl of soup and orange.Went to the toilet to clear my bowel before the final assault on Hong Kong highest peak.Took 2 pieces of bun,oranges and hide them in my jacket for later use.

Immediately after passing through the timing mat at CP9,it was all the way up and up.It was very misty and windy up in the Tai Mo Shan.Visibility was poor at certain time.I just focus on walking and I was 100% sure I will finish this 100km.      

After 29 hours 25  minutes,I finally made it to the finishing line.Not much of carnival effect at the end point.Only one deejay announcing in Cantonese of arrival of runners.There I met with Leslie and few Malaysian runners who has finished earlier.Got myself some drinks,collected my bags and certificate,medal and finishing jacket.Everything was so toned down and going at a slow pace.Probably it was late noon and those organizing teams were too tired,just waiting for the whole event to finish so they too can go home.

My roommate Dr Wong who finished at 26hours 40minutes has left the race site.I bought a shuttle bus ticket to Tseun Wan MTR station for HKD 20.From there I took the MTR back to Tsim Sha Shui.Dr Wong was sleeping soundly when I arrived.    

1)well organized event with good support at each check points.
2)tough race for an ordinary people like me.
3)happy to achieve my dream of doing a 100km race.
4)happy to conquer my own fear.


Thank you to my wife for being very supportive.Thank you for her encouraging sms throughout the race.Not forgetting to all my friends and running buddies who sent their best wishes either through email,sms or phone call supporting me in my maiden 100km.Thanks a lot guys.You guys must try too next year!

To quote an sms sent from Dr Liau before I fly to Hong Kong:
"wish u best of luck in HK100.Try your best.Do your utmost.Have faith&be strong.U can't conquer the hills,but can conquer your own weakness&fear"

Well...I have conquer my own fear and I have succeed.

I am just an ordinary people being extraordinary!!