This weekend I flew to Hong Kong to do some serious running/hiking practice with my Trailwalker team mates. The actual race will be on November 7, so we have about 2 months left to get in shape. In case you are not familiar with the Hong Kong Trailwalker, it is a 100 km race over the MacLehose trail in the mountains in the New Territories. You participate in a team of 4 people that all have to run (or hike) the full 100 km in order to get a race result. Because only a few parts of the race are on flat terrain it is quite a challenge to finish it, especially if you set yourself a goal to finish within 20 hours like we do (the maximum time allowed is 48 hours, but by then I should be back in Shanghai already!).
My team mates are Marcel Ekkel (a Dutch friend living in Hong Kong, former Marine and endurance sports enthousiast) and Dolphin (Her nickname actually, a Hongkong lady very active in outdoor sports, among others the Hash House Harriers :). Until this morning we had a fourth team mate, but for personal reasons he decided not to join. A pity, but because there are many more people who would like to join the race than there are teams that get accepted, we should easily find a replacement.
Today we did a 25 km run/hike over the first two stages of the MacLehose trail. It was my first time on the trail, and I was not disappointed by the route. We took the MTR and then a minibus to get to Sai Kung, and from there a cab to the start of the MacLehose trail. Nature in that part of the New Territories is stunning, I did not realize that Hong Kong is so beautiful. I did some hikes before on Hong Kong Island and on Lantau, but this is much more beautiful. Deserted beaches, steep mountains, some rain forest – a fantastic combination less than 1 hour away from downtown Hong Kong. And hardly anybody on the trails, do people in Hong Kong never go here?I am getting into a decent shape, because I am running almost daily in my gym (I set up a small gym in my house, with among others a professional running machine). And that is a good thing, otherwise I would have had a very hard time today. Not that it was easy now, but at least I managed without too much trouble. It was hot when we left, the sun was burning and there were hardly any clouds. But the temperature dropped below 30 degrees about halfway through the run when it became overcast. We even thought there might be some rain, because we heard thunderstorms in the distance (HK Island had some rain we were told later).
The trail is tough, even though we only did the first two stages today that are easy (stage 1) and fairly difficult (stage 2). But if it would be too easy it would not be a challenge, so I don’t mind. My team mates are in pretty good shape as well, and we all managed to keep up with each other. That’s one of the important things during the Trailwalker, you have to stay with your team – in good times and in bad. Not always easy when you feel you can go faster, but over a 100 km route everybody will have his or her difficult moments, and then the others should be there to support you to get through that stage.
The most difficult parts were the long steep climbs up the mountains, but if you pace yourself it is possible to get to the top in a decent speed without blowing yourself up. Going down is easier at first, but after many kilometers of downhills your muscles start to protest. My new trailrunning shoes also did not help to make it easier: my feet hurt more because of the new shoes than because of the long run!
I look forward to the actual race on November 7, but I am also a bit afraid. Can I really do a full 100 kilometers? I never ran or hiked such a long distance before, and certainly not in a mountainous area. Hopefully it won’t be as hot as today, because that would be a killer as well. At least I have a very good motivation to train hard over the next two months to get in excellent shape. I am going to cut down on alcohol, eat more healthy food, and get more sleep. Together with 5-6 training sessions per week I hope I will be able to finish together with my team. The result will certainly be posted on this blog!