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Vibram HK100 Ultra Trail Race 2015 Report

Days after completing my first 100k ultra trail race in Translantau 2014, I had made up my mind that I would join the Vibram HK100 ultra trail race in 2015. Fast forward 10 months and I found myself on the start line of Vibram HK100, which was the opening race of the second edition of the Ultra Trail World Tour 2015.

starting pose

It felt surreal and very insignificant to be among giants of trail running from all over the world. The last 3 months of intense training, with lead up races of SCMS0214 and MR25 Ultramarathon, has all come down to this 5th edition of the HK100.

The Hong Kong 100 course starts in Pak Tam Chung, before finishing after the descent of Tai Mo Shan, Hong Kong’s highest peak (at 957m). The total elevation of the race is 4500m D+. From the elevation chart of HK100, this would be a race of two halves. The first 50km was relatively flat, with most of the killer elevation coming in the second half of the race.

HK100 elevation chart

This was to be my second 100K ultra trail race and my first time participating in HK100. As a tourist, I have never been to that part of Hong Kong before. As an overseas runner, I did not have the luxury of running on the course prior to the race. I have never ran on the MacLehose Trail, which the HK100 course is based on.

HK100 route map

So I have to rely on photos and race report posted by past participants, as well as my own experience running TransLantau 2014, to have a remote feel of what to expect.

On race day morning, the weather was a cool 17 deg C. I took a shuttle bus from Mongkok to the start point. The drop bags and finishing point bags logistics went smoothly. After much anticipation and jitters, the race directors, Steve and Janet, flagged us off promptly at 8am.

flagged off

After a quick drink at the support point at East Dam, I was ready to go but had to pause to take a few photographs as the scenery was breathtaking.
support dam

The journey towards CP1 Ham Tin was along coastal trail and prestine sandy beaches of Sai Wan.
sai wan

beach run

Unlike TransLantau 2014, which was a night start and no view to enjoy until day break, we had breathtaking view to enjoy in HK100, and it really proved much difference. The CPs were well-manned and well stocked up, the volunteers made sure they drummed up the atmosphere to motivate us along.

day CPs

The sun had set by the time I reached the half way mark at 52km, where our drop bag could be accessed. It had taken me 10 hours of running. After retrieving my drop bag, I had dinner, had a change of socks, put on a long sleeve compression shirt, and my headlamp, and pushed off for the second part of the race in darkness.

night CPs

The second half of the race was peppered with peaks after peaks, there were lots and lots of climbing. It was very slow-going as fatigue had set in, I could not do much running. The infamous Needle hill was the one that broke my wish of finishing sub-24h and getting that bronze trophy.

beacon hill

In the cold dark night, one bright spark that stood out and burnt into my memories was checkpoint 7. This is probably one of the most favorite checkpoints of HK100 runners. This CP was manned by boy scouts from West Island International School. The atmosphere there was excellent with bonfire and loud music tokeep the runners warm and pumped. In the middle of the night, the friendly and energetic scouts made sure we were kept warm with servings of hot soups, coffee/tea, and blankets.

bon fire

In TransLantau 2014, I had thoughts of pulling out of the race on the second night of running. Fortunately, such thoughts did not enter my mind in HK100 race. Although tired and hobbling along, I knew I would complete the race within the cut-off time. After a short rest and hot drinks at Lead Mine Pass CP, it was near to daybreak when I pushed off to conquer Tai Mo Shan.

day break

fog

taimoshan

It was a surreal feeling to observe Tai Mo Shan from afar, with the morning fog covering most of its peak except the round radar station peeking through the fog. After the last push over Tai Mo Shan, there was a 4km run downhill
to the finish line. I was ecstatic to hear the announcer announced my name, my country and the finished time of 25h 25m when I crossed the line.

finishing pose

race result

finisher medal

With the completion of both the TranLantau and Vibram HK100 trail race, I have conquered the 3 highest peak in Hong Kong. The highest, Tai Mo Shan at 957m, and the second and third highest peak in Hong Kong – the Lantau Peak at 934m above sea level and Sunset Peak at 854m above sea level, respectively. This was indeed something special to me coming from an elevation-challenged city state of Singapore, where the highest peak in the whole country is a mere 164m!

It had been an amazing journey running the Vibram HK100 ultra trail race. I want to congratulate the race directors Steve and Janet for a very well organised and executed race, and all the winners and finishers. Lots of thanks to all the crew members and volunteers who had worked tirelessly so that the race can proceed smoothly. The only slight disappointment was not meeting my target time of a sub-24h finish, and I did not manage to earn the bronze trophy. But rest assure, I will be back in 2016 to earn that trophy!

Here are some statistics from the race:
Signed up: 1822 [1648 in 2014]
Started: 1659 [1498 in 2014]
Finished: 1318 (79.5%) [1159 (77.4%) in 2014]
DNF:   341 (20.5%) [333 (22.2%) in 2014]
Gold Awards (sub-16 hours): 188 (11.3%) [194 (13%) in 2014]
Silver Awards (sub 20 hours): 385 (23.2%) [339 (22.6%) in 2014]
Bronze Awards (sub 24 hours): 471 (28.4%) [385 (25.7%) in 2014]
Medals (sub 30 hours) 276 (16.6%) [192 (12.8%) in 2014]
Volunteers: 600
Countries represented: 51


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MR25 Ultra Marathon 2014-2015

The completion of the annual StanChart Marathon Singapore usually marks the end of a running season, and would kickstart the year-end festivities celebrations. However, this year is a little different as I enrolled in the MR25 Ultra Marathon for the first time. The annual MR25 Ultra marathon is usually held on the last Saturday of the year. Due to unknown reason, the race was postponed from the last weekend of 2014, to the first Saturday of 2015! As a result, after getting a personal best in the SCMS 2014, there was no rest for the weary, the celebrations were muted, as I got myself in a physical state ready for the MR25 Ultra Marathon.

The MR25 Ultra marathon is a 12-hour race with runners running a 10.5km loop at MacRitchie reservoir. The winner is the person that completes the most laps in 12hours (7am-7pm). In order to claim a finisher t-shirt, medal and certificate, runners must complete a minimum of five loops.

MR25 race route

The weather was good and there was no rain on race day. In the end, I completed 6 loops in 9 hours+.
Distance completed

MR25 finisher medal

Some voluntary photographers were on various parts of the course to capture the runners. Here are some shots taken by the hardworking photographers.

golf link

boardwalk

run happy

finish line


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StanChart Marathon Singapore 2014

Singapore’s biggest annual running event – Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore – rolled around once again on 7th December. SCMS 2013 race was a disaster for me, being stuck in the baggage deposit queue and subsequently locked out of the below-5hrs starting pen, and had to start the race behind thousands of runners. As a result, I completed the race with a very bad time of 4:23.

Having learned a very painful lesson, I was determined to make it right this year, and had been training my socks off. I arrived at Orchard Road slightly before 4am, deposited my baggage without delay, cleared my bowels, and was in the designated starting pen at least 40mins before race starts at 5am.

scms2014 start

There was no change to the full marathon route, however, the half marathon route was slightly rerouted so that the three different categories only merged in the last 500m of the race. This change has a huge impact on the full marathon runners, as we have been subjected to human congestion at the 38-39km when the 3 categories of runners all merged in the past editions of the marathon, thus slowing us down.

running pose

Photo credit: Running Shots

running stars

I felt prepared in the starting pen, and felt good throughout the race. I had planned to run a negative split, but was pleasantly surprised that I ended up with pretty even splits. I completed the race in 3:49, was ecstatic to achieve a personal best after the months of hard trainings.

SCMS2014 result

Running the same route year after year isn’t fun anymore, however, thanks to all the enthusiastic volunteers manning the baggage deposit/collection, hydration stations, and cheering runners along the route.


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Penang 100 Ultramarathon 2014

Penang100 logo
One week after conquering the Army Half Marathon 2014 in the Marina Bay area, I was in Penang to mount another challenge – the inaugural Penang 100 Ultramarathon. The Penang 100 is the first ultramarathon in Penang, and comprises 3 categories of 50km, 84km and 100km. I was registered in the 84km Round Island challenge. This would be my second ultramarathon race this year after my adventure in Trans Lantau 2014 back in March.

Gear check
The 100km Challenge and 84km Round Island course started and finished in Esplanade, Padang Kota Lama and went through the Unesco World Heritage Site Georgetown. The route also passed by the Penang Bridge and the newly built Penang Second Bridge. The terrain and route of Penang is foreign to me even though this was the second time I was running in Penang, after the Penang Bridge International Marathon 2012.

The race started on a humid Saturday night at 9pm on 6th September, Chief Minister of Penang, Lim Guan Eng, flagged the race off. Once the starter horn sounded, about 400 of us trudged past the Penang Town Hall, ran past Fort Cornwallis, dodging Saturday night traffic meandering along the jetty road, and ran in the direction of Bayan Lepas. Mobile traffic police officers were on the ground manning traffic junctions to stop traffic flow and let runners ran on uninterrupted.

84km run map
The first water point at 12km mark (opposite QueensBay Mall), and checkpoint 2 at 25km mark (industrial estate near airport) were reached pretty uneventfully as I maintain a comfortable pace of 7.30min/km. At both checkpoints, I downed an ice cold bottle of Revive isotonic drink and continued on.

The next leg of the journey were met with resistance as we tried to overcome a 3km long incline. We ran on an elevated highway, reaching 130m at its highest point at 33km, before descending all the way till 37km mark where checkpoint 3 was located in a school compound. Many runners including myself walked the uphill section, and ran the downhill to recover much time lost.

running on elevated highway

IMG_9483831210812
The route from checkpoint 3 to checkpoint 4 was a long flat stretch of road, passing by many plantations and various Malay kampungs. It was a pity it was the middle of the night, and the residents were fast asleep by then. At this point, I was feeling tired and sleepy, I was counting lamp posts and willing myself to put one foot in front of the other. Was I glad when checkpoint 4 came into view. It was the 50km mark of the race where we could retrieve our drop-bag. Kudos to the crews and volunteers, the bag retrieval process was fast. I changed my socks and decided not to change shoes and running top as it was not raining. After taking some chicken porridge and replenished my water bottles, I was on my way for the second half of the ultramarathon.

Once we left the compound, the road started on a steady incline over the next 5km on long, dark and winding mountain road and reached its peak of 228m. Similar to the first hill climb, I fast-walked the uphill, and in the darkest of dark nights on the mountain road, I could make out red blinking lights and headlamps of runners in the distant ahead. Then we started the 7km descend until we reached the Telok Bahang Dam, and checkpoint 5 was just after the dam at 62km mark.

IMG_9513814662197
At this point I was tired beyond words but giving up never crossed my mind even though there was over 20km left to cover. I guess it was at dark moment like this that the months of toiling, night training and sacrifice stood up to the test. I was feeling hungry but only managed to eat half a bun and downed half a bottle of Revive and I was out pushing for checkpoint 6, which was about 9km away.

This leg of the race was quite a suffer fest as we tackle the undulating coastal road of Batu Ferringghi. I was adopting the walk uphill, and hobbled downhill on this stretch. By now daylight has broken, and vehicular traffic has gradually increased despite it being a Sunday morning. I’ve never been to this part of the island before this race, and was treated to beautiful sea view along the route.

Somehow checkpoint 6 came and went in a blur, and I was hobbling along towards checkpoint 7 at Gurney Drive. With a nice sea breeze blowing and a picturesque view, the checkpoint near the waterfront was a godsend.

checkpoint 7

sea view

The sun was pretty high up by the time I left checkpoint 7, by then my quads were busted and I walked all the 5km to the finishing line at the Esplanade. I finally crossed the finish line in 14h 22m, totally spent but happy that I’ve completed another ultramarathon within the cut-off time.

Finsiher pose

Finisher medal

I want to thank the organisers for a superbly executed event over such a long course. I thoroughly enjoyed the entire journey. I was touched by the friendly and enthusiastic marshals and volunteers who aided and guided us in the various checkpoints. I was very impressed by the challenging route, and the safety team who worked tirelessly roving up and down the route in their bicycles and motorcycles. I promised I will be back in another time to attempt the 100km Ultramarthon challenge!

PhotoGrid


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SAFRA Singapore Bay Run and Army Half Marathon 2014

AHM2014header

The 23rd edition of the SAFRA Singapore Bay Run and Army Half Marathon was flagged off at 5am on 31st August at the Esplanade Bridge. I was among the 21,800 runners in the starting pen of the 21km run. There was also a 10-kilometre race, a five-kilometre “fun run” and a father-and-child event.

AHM RaceRoute-2014

Besides running along iconic landmarks, this year’s half marathon was slightly diverted at Tangjong Rhu area to avoid the bottleneck encountered last year. Additionally, the new route also ran past the newly minted Sports Hub.

AHM2014running shots

I crossed the finished line in 1h 50m, 4mins slower than my SSBRAHM 2013 result.

AHM2014 results

ahm2014runpix

AHM conquered

AHM2014 grid


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