Time, It continues to fly by at a pace that I can barely keep track of. The last time I posted here I was in an airport on my way to Patagonia, that was nearly three months ago. The trip to Patagonia was amazing, and there is a film that is nearing completion about it. I will certainly write more after the film comes out. After returning from Chile I took a little time off from running, and then started to ramp up some skimo training with the intention of being ready to race some of the latter season skimo events. Just after starting the second week of the training block I got an email asking if I would be ready to race 50k the first weekend of February. I certainly had a more than adequate base, and with a few weeks of sharpening I figured that the legs would be ready to go. I replied to the affirmative and within a few days I was booking a ticket to Hong Kong for the Asian Skyrunning Continental Championships.
The weather, although quite poor for skiing, was very cooperative with me during the weeks before heading to Hong Kong. Warm temps led to lots of runnable dirt in Pocatello and frankly, training went quite well. I worked a full day on February 2nd, at dinner with the family and drove down to Salt Lake City that night. I woke up really early to get in a few easy miles of running before heading to the airport and was treated to a great view of the Capitol Building and the city lights. Handsome Matt drove me to the airport where, ironically, I ran into the Dorais brothers and Tom Goth who were headed to the Ski Mountaineering World Championships. It would be the first time in many years that I wasn’t making the trip to represent the USA, but it seemed fitting to see them off.
A bleary 20 hours later I landed in Hong Kong airport, met Veronica from Action Asia, and off we went. I was lucky to have been on a relatively empty flight from Seattle and had slept quite well on the plane. I was glad to be as spry as one can be after so much travel so I could enjoy the views of the city at night as we drove to Sai Kung. We arrived at the hotel pretty late and no one was home at reception, so I went straight to the assigned room and woke up my roommate Martin Gaffuri.
Neither of us slept too well that night. Martin had arrived just a few hours earlier from France and the jet leg had both of our bodies pretty confused. The next morning we walked a little over an hour into Sai Kung city to some exploring and shopping for some snacks.
We then hopped a taxi back to the hotel, grabbed our running clothes and met Jeff Chan of Patagonia Hong Kong. We went back into the city for some pizza and an interview with Fred To, who writes for an action sports magazine in Hong Kong. Kin and Patrick also joined us for the lunch and then we headed up for a little course recon and photos.
We ran the entire last loop of the race and I have to admit I was surprised at how technical the running was. It was very good to get out and see the course and it felt great to run after all the travel. After the run we went back to Sai Kung for dinner, which was awesome! Jeff picked out a bunch of live seafood from these tanks and a few minutes later plate after plate started to emerge from the kitchen.
After a very good night’s sleep, Martin and I went out for another short shakeout run and then joined the rest of the invited runners for a press event. We shot some very cool group pictures on the pier and enjoyed a meet and greet with a bunch of the press that was at the event. Then it was back to the hotel to eat and get ready to race the next day.
I slept surprisingly well for 4 or 5 hours and then my body was ready to be awake for the day. Normally I don’t get up 4 hours before a race, but there was no sense in fighting the wicked out rhythms that my body was in. After a light breakfast and a bottle of Ultragen I headed out into the cool dark morning and instead of taking the shuttle to the start, I opted to run the 2.5k up the road.
The race itself started rather quickly, there was a kilometer or two of gentle uphill road running before the route turned on to the trail and the first real climb of the race. I held back some, trying to race a little more intelligently than I normally do. It paid off as I quickly moved past many runners on the first ascent. I have to admit that I fell into a nice, quick groove and just tried to take in the experience. I had a little mishap about 15k or so into the race where several of the lead runners where sent the wrong direction on a 4k loop. It was a rather desperate feeling when runners started coming at us from the other way informing us we were off course. We continued swimming upstream to a timing checkpoint and then we were instructed to go back the way we had come. It cost us at least 5 minutes and it totally ruined my headspace.
On the decent back down I took a nasty fall when I hooked a toe and couldn’t save it. I summersaulted and slid to a stop. I hopped up, fueled by a nice adrenaline surge and tried to shake it off. I felt a warm ooze on my right hip. Fortunately when I felt the hip I quickly realized I wasn’t bleeding, but that I had ruptured my 5 oz gel flask and it was leaking all over my leg. This actually would turn into a larger problem as I had very precisely planned my fueling for the race and every ounce of lost gel would cost me. I pulled the sticky mess out of my pocket and proceeded to suck it dry.
The combination of lost time, fall, and weird fueling put me in to a pretty funky headspace for the next 10-15 kilometers. I lost several places and was loosing my interest in fighting hard for the rest of the race. I was battling the demons in my head when the Rowing by Soundgarden rolled across my iPod. “Don’t know where I’m going, I just keep on rowing, I just keep on pulling, gotta row, Moving is breathing and breathing is life, Stopping is dying, you’ll be alright.” For some reason that seemed to be just the right thing to snap me out of the trance and to start racing again.
At this point in the race I was in 13th or 14th. It was time to push and see what I could manage to salvage after the bad patch. It was starting to get hot and I figured that it was going to be make it or break it for the runners ahead of me. I took a hit of Holy Hand Grenade and picked up the pace. There was still probably 20k or so to go and slowly I started to pick off runners. By the time I hit the last checkpoint I was in 9th and had just moved into the section of the course we ran a few days before. I did my best to use my course knowledge and pushed hard. I passed another runner on the ascent, and passed Fulvio Dapit from Italy just after starting the descent. I wouldn’t see another runner on the course. I held off some impending cramps during the final kilometer on the road to finish 7th overall and 6th male.
As I reflect back on the course I am still in awe of how technical and challenging of a race it was. The ups were steep and relentless; so were the downs. My ankles and feet ached from the constant need of adjustment on the uneven rocks and steps. It was like nothing I had run before, and I was very content with the race I was able to pull together. I really enjoyed the finish line, hanging out with friends from all over the world, celebrating each other’s victories and struggles. Moments like that often define these events for me.
After the race we took a bus into Kowloon City. We checked into the hotel, and I made a dash to see some of the city. One of the Patagonia stores in Hong Kong was not far from my hotel so I made my way there to visit the extended Patagonia family. It was great to meet the staff in the shop, and I would have loved to hang out for longer, but they were having a big sale and the store was madness! I wandered around for another hour or so and then headed back to the hotel for dinner and the race after-party. The party was a good time, and after a couple of hours a crew of us decided that since our time was limited we would go to Hong Kong Island and see some of this amazing city. One wild taxi ride later and we were in the heart of Hong Kong, I think.
We had some drinks, and then explored around. The late hour had stomachs grumbling and fortuitously we stumbled upon a busy street diner.
A bit of sketchy food and lots of laughs later we headed back to the hotel via the subway. Sometime after midnight I crawled into bed. A couple of hours of restless sleep later I gave up on trying to sleep and went down to enjoy the hotel’s now legendary buffet. It did not disappoint. A couple of hours later and many, many plates of food later it was time to check out of the hotel and head to the airport.
Once again I dropped into the weirdness that is international air travel and emerged bleary eyed some 20 hours later in the Salt Lake Airport. A short train ride took me downtown, and then a nice walk led me to my truck. Somehow I managed to make the drive home from Salt Lake without incident, and even though my Sunday had been some 15 hours longer than normal I merged into my normal life and on to the normal work week the next morning.
While it was the shortest international trip I have done, I feel like it was one of the funnest trips I have done. I had a good race, surrounded by good friends, and a bit of adventure in a foreign land to bring it all together. Now if I could just get my sleeping patterns to normalize, life would be grand!