Beautiful Suffering in a Coastal Jungle

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Beautiful Tropical Views

The Asian island of Hong Kong has a rich history of culture.  The Hong Kong 100 presented by Vibram has established itself as the first major trail ultra marathon of each year with its partnership with Ultra Trail World Tour.  The race takes place in the New Territories on some of the most scenic “urban trails” and single-track I have ever run on.  The course is diverse; juggling road running, concrete paths in jungle, stone steps that would make any mason proud, and some steep rocky coastal volcanic trail.

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Vibram has been a sponsor since the start of the HK100

I was slated to race the 2014 edition of the Vibram Hong Kong 100 as part of the inaugural race on the UTWT but a week before the race I wasn’t walking pain free so the idea of forty hours on an airplane in a week before and after a run was not appealing.  I bowed out of the race, but this year I was fit and my training was going great, albeit mostly at high elevation on soft snow.  I arrived in Hong Kong the Thursday before the race rested and excited.  The room key the hotel gave me didn’t work so I had to wake up my roommate Sondre, who would go on to run an incredible race.  I laced up my Montrail Fluid Flex’s and had a nice shake-out run on the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s infield and up above the sky scrappers of Hong Kong Island.  Think Manhattan with Mountains!

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Early on Running Strong (photo courtesy of Daniel Chung)

Thursday afternoon Sondre and I had a bland Chinese food meal at a local eatery in the Causeway Bay neighborhood, but that night Bryon from irunfar.com joined us and we had an incredible Thai dinner.  Jet lag caught up to me and my full belly and I retired to sleep like a rockstar while my roommate went down to listen to the French W A A (sorry could not find a link online to the 3 guys) team speak at packet pickup at Racing the Planet.  I made an effort to sleep in on Friday morning but was awake early, as my body was 15 hours behind and my circadian rhythms were all out of whack.

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lots of steep ascents and descents (Lloyd Belcher’s image)

Friday was a mellow day spent resting in the hotel room.  Saturday morning we had to catch a bus at 0530 to get us to the start two hours early, so we sat around and waited.  Culturally, I experienced my first toilet sans seat which was unique to say the least.  By 0730 I was warmed up, loose and ready to run, so I made my way to the elite start coral.  I was excited and because everything was running smoothly, I got to chat with race directors Steve and Janet and pose for pictures with local athletes.  The countdown was in a language I did not understand and at 0800 local we were off on a flat road section headed toward the trail.  I knew the course was back-loaded with hills, so when we hit the single track I kept the leaders in view but held back.

Hurting on Concrete (photo from Billy Lung's Facebook)

Hurting on Concrete (photo from Billy Lung’s Facebook)

By the first water stop the leaders had pulled away on a flat paved road section in between what looked to be water reservoirs, but I felt good with my pace and was running in the top 15.  My first shock was the short stone steps down to the beach shortly after getting refilled on water.  They were so steep and there were so many of them.  The human brain is programed to run steps one at a time and I had not been training to bypass that reaction to patterns so I lost tons of time.

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ridge trails had views of the ocean on both sides (Daniel Chung / danielccn2004@yahoo.com.hk)

My race blew up when after a steep climb we hit another downhill section with steps and a long steep concrete path.  A bunch of runners passed me, but I remained calm, enjoying my time on the next beach running with the guys from Nepal.

property of Alexis Berg of Grand Trail

Sand Running (Alexis Berg / Grand Trail)

By the second or third place for snacks and water I was shocked to hear that we were running in 20th place about ten minutes back.  The Canadian runner in front of me was happy with that news, but I wasn’t, as my lower left back and left ankle were starting to bother me.  I kept on for some time, finally sitting down around 65K for some soup as I began to catch a chill and really have trouble with my stride.

pre race photo by Alexis Berg of Project Grand Trail

Pre-Race Excitement (Alexis Berg / Grand Trail)

I met so many great folks on the trail and volunteers at the water stops.  I cannot begin to mention them all here and I was fighting through so much pain that I apologize if I forgot to properly thank and acknowledge everyone.  I wish I would have kept on going but I was not prepared for night running save my mandatory gear items and was advised it would be much harder to get me off course after dark.  What Janet and Steve have done with the Hong Kong 100 is incredible and I was truly honored to be invited back.  I race to do my best, but I also race against my competition, so in my heart I knew it was time to heed the advice of the aid station captain and medics and hand in bib 17.

A painful, but beautiful day in the jungle

A painful, but amazing day

I am back home in the cold snowy Northern Arizona winter, still unsure of what day it is and when I am supposed to sleep.  The great staff at HYPO2 has already taped my ankle and given me a back-to-basics rehab routine.  My loving girlfriend, Amy, has not only put up with me being up all night but taken the time to massage my injured muscles.  Asia was an incredible experience, and until I properly wake up from this jet lag, it will continue to feel like a dream.  Just not one that came true.  Stay tuned for my next adventure here.  Thank you to the incredible sponsors and for all for your support.

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Cathay Pacific made a long flight as enjoyable as possible

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About rundavejames

Two Time USATF 100 Mile National Champion Two Time Coastal Challenge Rain Forest Run Champion Team Red, White, Blue #CoachDJ www.rundavejames.com @rundavejames Premier Mozart100(r) Winner Athlete / Public Speaker
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6 Responses to Beautiful Suffering in a Coastal Jungle

  1. I can’t believe I missed you at the race! Sorry you didn’t get to finish, but glad you still seemed to enjoy yourself. You must head back next year to smash the second half. Much less concrete 🙂 See you out on the trails soon I hope!

    • rundavejames says:

      Stephanie, I think when I was wrapped in a blanket enjoying some warm soup at 65K I might have heard you came through? Sorry I didn’t come cheer you on or wait for all you guys to finish. Hong Kong is awesome! I can see why you call it home now 🙂 Keep Running Strong! I look forward to following your adventures! -DJ

      • Hope to see you next time! Hong Kong IS awesome. Ha, I’ve been back about four times in the last year, so I suppose it is like a pseudo home for me 🙂 Great friends, great trails. What more do you need? For the moment, Gaza is my real home (!!!).

  2. evygonzales says:

    dave you are so popular!! and you know THE stephanie case. Get well dude!
    and next time you are NYC stop by the apt to grab your Mozart bottle. Kino is keeping safe for you. BTW- my coach ran HK. He did super. Top 50 I think.

  3. Pingback: Sunshine, Snow, & Sand | sometimes I run #CoachDJ

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