Trail Run Mag Asia Editor, Rachel Jacqueline, reports in from the recent Vibram Hong Kong 100, where the Aussie and Kiwi contingent ranked well, and the Nepali runners showed they are a force to be reckoned with on the tail.
The Ultra Trail World Tour kicked off last week in Hong Kong with the Vibram HK 100 2014. The Nepalese well and truly stamped their dominance among Hong Kong’s hills for a 1-2 finish from Tirtha Bahadur Tamang and Bed Bahadur Sunuwar.
In third was none other than the boy from Down Under, Vlad Ixel (below left), at home amongst the hilly terrain despite living in dead-flat Perth. Storming down the hill behind him and only seconds apart was Vajin Armstrong and Scotty Hawker, rounding out the top five – and making it a proud day for Aussies and Kiwis!
Although a smoking course-record breaking day was expected, a combo of burn out, unseasonably hot weather and perhaps a little too much pollution combined to see a lot of carnage over of the course of the day. By half way, Claire Price, Lizzy Hawker and other Hong Kong elite, Olya Korzh, had all pulled out.
Interestingly, the three top Hong Kong male runners – Stone Tsang, Jeremy Ritcey and William Davies – were all a good twenty minutes off from last year’s time. Maybe a sign Hongkongers are having a little too much of a good thing with all the races that have popped up in the last year?
I (Rachel – Asia Ed.) caught up with The North Face’s Jez Brag (10th) who gave a nice little summary of how the day played out from the front (while I was busy running somewhere a little further back!!!). Thanks Jez!
It was a fast start at the front, and the pace along the road to the dam at support point 1 was pretty smokey! Not too surprising given the depth of field, but it suggested there would be some casualties, which of course there were. I did my usual thing of running steadily and consistently throughout. I was with the leaders for the first couple of sections, but then continued a little more conservatively thereafter, to save some juice for the latter climbs. My climbing speed wasn’t really up to scratch hence I wasn’t quite able to mix it up with the lead guys, but that’s not something I’ve really focused on in training since UTMB, but I will start to more as the season gets going. I decided to approach this race in a fairly relaxed manner; it was a relatively short trip over, and running a course blind is never too easy.
The journey around the course was however amazing. I shared some spells with various guys, but a lot of it I spent on my own, with plenty of time to absorb the amazing views of the beaches, forests and city skyline. Oh, and lots of monkeys ready to swipe your gels given half the chance. I’m not sure there’s anywhere else in the world where you can experience such contrasts, so close to major world city. Watching the sun set over the city from the top of Tai Mo Shan 95 km in to the race (high point of the course at 957m) was a real highlight.
The Hong Kong trails are also pretty unique under foot. I had heard what the course was like beforehand, but I think until you’ve actually seen all the steps and hard surfaces, it’s hard to imagine. It’s not necessarily a negative, it’s just how it is locally, but quite hard attack without practice. The main difficulty with the course is the fact the climbing is mostly back loaded – in the 2nd half – which is always going to be tough after a fast, flat, first half. I’m not going to lie, I had to dig deep for my performance, like many did I’m sure. It’s a tough race, no doubt, which the results only confirm.
I felt it was a really positive opening to the UTWT calendar. It needs time to develop and find it’s feet as a series, but in terms of promoting and developing world class trail courses around the globe, it was very fitting to open the show in Hong Kong. It was a competitive race with a classy international field, and certainly bodes well for the year ahead.
As far as race experiences go, the HK100 offers a lot more than you may first think. In the space of four days I met an amazing array of runners from all over the world, experienced incredible views of Hong Kong from all different angles and ran some epic sections of trail through seemingly remote, rural areas. Definitely a trip to remember.
Are you going to add the Vibram HK 100 to your race calender next year?
Read more about the race:
Scotty Hawkers’ blog.
Top 10 Men
1. Tirtha Bahadur Tamang (Nepal) 10:02:04
2. Bed Bahadur Sunuwar (Nepal) 10:06:37
3. Vlad Ixel (Australia) 10:11:53
4. Vajin Armstrong (New Zealand) 10:18:29
5. Scott Hawker (New Zealand) 10:18:56
6. Ram Bhandari (Nepal) 10:19:35
7. Shunsuke Okunomiya (Japan) 10:28:45
8. Dave Mackey (USA) 10:36:46
9. Tsang Siu Keung (Hong Kong) 10:40:08
10.Jez Bragg (Great Britain) 10:58:39
Top 10 Women
1. Francesca Canepa (Italy) 12:59:19
2. Chow Pui Yan (Hong Kong) 13:32:48
3. Lo Ching Ling (Hong Kong) 13:55:34
4. Nerea Martinez (Spain) 14:30:16
5. Mathilde Heaton (France) 14:43:21
6. Rachel Jacqueline (Australia) 14:44:19
7. Leung Wan Yee (Hong Kong) 14:53:58
8. Nora Senn (Switzerland) 15:06:39
9. Chan Man Ha (Hong Kong) 15:23:51
10.Charlotte Luck (Great Britain) 15:26:06