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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The journey towards CP1 Ham Tin was along coastal trail and prestine sandy beaches of Sai Wan.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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]
Countries represented: 51