Monday, 4 December 2006

a delayed trailwalker report......

Dear All,

THURSDAY

As I bothered you before..let me do a last update on the performance of team 140 during this years anniversary Oxfam Trailwalker held begin November.

First of all, a big thanks for those who committed on their sponsorship! For those who feel they want to do an after match donation, contact me via email of phone and make sure the donation is handed over or transferred before the 113th of December.

The evening before the event the whole team gathered at the peak (as the support car was there) to indulge ourselves in a big pasta (read carbo hydrate!!) feast. At the same time we discussed the latest details with the support team and handed over our support bags. Bags with all the stuff we would need at each support contact point. This courld vary from some bars till complete new set of clothes and even shoes. Of course we set out a schedule where to meet whom, and we numbered all our bags in line with the support point. In the afternoon I had been shopping for red bull, some snackbars, cooking pasta and some other preparation for the event.

Before getting over there I quickly met up with Ryan Blair from Asia Pacific Adventure (http://www.asiapacificadventure.com/index.php) to get some last minute tips and kit for the race. So, I brought walking sticks to support knees, and we created 2 sets of towing lines. Those can be used between 2 partners to keep the one behind going……

Anyway, whilst enjoying our dinner the support team started packing the car in order to have everythin ready at the right moment. Being in a support team is by no means an easy and lazy job. Anyway, you will see that later on.

After all the gear was distributed, the bellies filled everyone went home to do the last preparation. For me it was easy as I had done most of my preparation already. After 23:30 I took my shower and dropped in bed to get a good night of zzzzzzzzzzzzzleeeeepppppp.


FRIDAY

An on time wake up as we (the runner’s team) decided to meet at Admiralty MTR Mc CafĂ© at 0700 and I wanted to have breakfast before. As breakfast I made my porridge with soy milk and banana to put some energy in the system. After filling the bladder and doing a last minute equipment check, I walked down the hill from where I live to get a cab to Admiralty MTR. Pete was already there but didn’t have a good morning as McCafe didn’t have any working coffee machines and McDonalds didn’t have any coffee…… Anyway, upon arrival we all got in a taxi and drove to Pak Tam Chung ( a ride that must have made the driver happy). Quite interesting to see many cabs filled with participants. Easy to recognize, 4 people in a car in full hiking gear. Luckily we were quite early this year, as we arrive 07:50hrs or so. First we did the check in, got our bracelets attached and checked, pick up team pack etc. All went smooth, so we had enough time to get some drinks in, do some stretching and just enjoy the morning sunshine. As it was a really nice morrning.

It had been nice all week, but the day was going to be a hot one again. After sitting and stretching we started to make our way to the start around 08:25. As we arrived on time, it gave us a last opportunity from proper relief at normal toilets J and indeed we used the facilities well. Over there it was nice to see some familiair faces and wish them good luck.

The start is as always preceded by some speeches of sponsors and organizers. 09:03…finally! There is the start signal….and off we went. From our experience 2 weeks before we decided to start a bit easy today. We kept a good speed but no real running on the first 2 sections. The first timepoint was touched within an 18 hour schedule. Keeping the pace good is always a challenge, as many start way to fast. The temperature started picking up already, so we could see many faces turning red and heard lots of huffin’ and puffin’. As team we did a good job on pacing ourselves.

Check Point 2 was the first contact point with the supporters. It was just change of socks after a sandy patch, then get some food and drinks and…..go on for the next stretch. As it was around lunchtime, we were supplied with a moutfull of pasta or whatever we liked. In line with the tradition I picked up some Asian Pears just before going op the hill. This is where I was going to take it easy for a little as 2 weeks before I started cramping up at the beginning of section 3. Despite the heat we were able to keep a nice pace and I felt quite good. Drinking lots and maintaining a steady intake of hammer tablets (salt, minerals etc) helped me here for sure. Getting up the hill I felt a sense of relief that I survived without cramping up as I did 2 weeks before and last year as well. So now it was time to speed up a little bit.

After the hill there are some flat and more shaded parts which allowed me to close the gap with Pete and Duncan a little. This is where I ran into Sandro, which surpised me a little as he is normally quite fast. He was taking it a little easy this year and was in the team with PowerBar Leighton.The next stretch was flat and downhill with some minor uphills to conquer. The body was coping well with the heat as it was now peak time and many parts are unshaded and have light undergrounds that do reflect sun and heat big time. Getting close to 1500 it was time to face my personal enemy with an interesting name… the infamous “Chicken Hill”. The plan was to meet a supporter here with extra drinks in case. They missed it..anyway I started going up the hill, forcing myself into a steady pace and make sure not to stop to loose momentum. Looks like a good idea, as I moved up steadily. On this hill I ran into Leighton who was not having a good day at all. Getting up the hill I felt still quite good..have been pushing it but still no cramps! Once up the hill a big downhill stretch needs to be conquered. When in good shape, this is one of my favorite downhill parts.

The downhill definitely started to get an impact on my quads. Cramps started coming up a little so had to be carefull here. I caught up with Pete who’s knees started to get a little dodgy already. Understandably he wasn’t too happy with that as more hills were still to come. YEAH! Made it to checkpoint 3. At saisha road we were going to have a 10 minute break, to eat, resupply, change clothes etc. Siushan was here as well, and of course always nice to see her. The rest of the support team was very helpful and has been able to get us a good spot. As my quads cramped when sitting down, Siushan rushed around to get some massage oil. Our teams was kind of forgotten to be packed in the preparation rush… Anyway, she got some really nasty stuff. Not sure what it was, but after a good rub my quads were on fire. (was there any airplane fuel in it???). Time to, we were now a few minutes behind the 20HR schedule. Nothing to worry yet as the heat was over, and we should be able to speed up a little now.

As the sun set, my energy levels raised and I was up for a good recovery. Making sure to keep a good pace but not blowing it we did a lot together here. Melissa was going with us, and after more then 8 hours together its always nice to have an extra person around. Section 4 was going nicely and I felt the heat going out of the body and the energy and strength getting up the right levels. It was time to get the torches out as the sun had set. Duncan and Pete started to feel their knees on the downhills, which was a little bit worrying. Therefore we took it easy. Due to the carefullness we reached checkpoint 4 20 minutes behind schedule. Again no worries yet, as our time to catch up would come.

One more good uphill to conquer and then dinner time! I was getting a little hungry and would love to eat some warm food as the standard bars were getting a little bored. After check point 4 I was trying to get hold of the support team to make sure they were going to be in position on time. Missing your dinner stop is not a good thing, as the next opportunity would be quite a few hours away. Unfortunately phone connections are not super there and when we finally got hold of them the message was not promissing. They were not there, and even worse they were lost on the way. As the connection was bad it was hard to find out what was going on. Anyway, my initial response was being seriously annoyed. They had around 3 hours to get from the previous checkpoint to get set at the dinner location at Sha Tin passroad. Hearing that they spend some time at Siushan her grandma didn’t help in getting more wound up. Anyway, I decided that getting angry was not going to resolve the issue. So now it was sake to work out the situation and work on alternatives. A number of options were available:
- wait for them to show up:not the best one, as they didn’t know how long it was going to take.
- Let them go to the next option (Tai Po road) where we will meet them. Not favorable as we needed to eat, change kit etc. We could eat at the noodle place, but this would take a long time. Melissa could run ahead and order the food. But noodle soup is hot and you can’t chuck it down. Other then that we should have to make another stop at Tai Po road to change and resupply bars, drinks etc. Altough an option… not the best one either.
- Get food and drinks and use the bars and keep going untill we meet the team and hold a stop at Tai Po rd. This would have been my option as we still eat a little, and don’t loose lots of time nor should we be doing double stops causing us to loose extra time.

For option 2 and 3 we needed to make a decision soon, as the support team needed time to travel to Tai Po road and get set up there as well. Whils we were trying to stay in communications we found out they were close. Originally we were going to meet at the pagoda on top of Shatin passrd., however if we could change that to meet at the noodle shop then the support team would have enough time to get sorted. Wow, that was a big relief for us. The sunny side of it was that due to all talks, the time blew away. The downhill was a killer for the knee boys, as it is quite steep and at a painfull angle. When we arrived at the support location, it was really nice to see they got the whole place set up. All the packs organized food and drinks ready. After a short stop of 18 minutes or so, we carried on again. Having some warm food in the system was definitely nice! Further I discovered there that the schedules I created…were not as clear and water tight as I tought they would be. So there is space for improvement there.

Time for the remainder of section 5! Of we went, starting with a bit of a climb up to get around to Lion Rock. As we were full of energy now we decided to step up the pace a little and compensate for lost time. The steep bit up gave us a good warming up. On the flats we increased the pace to a slight jog which felt good on the legs. On this stretch we were overtaking many teams, spirit was good, speed was nice. At checkpoint 5 we arrived on time of the 20HR schedule, which was definitely good news. Taco decided to scare us and slipped around the corner off the path. He fell of the path, dropped his bottle of water. Fortunately he held his light, no injuries and we were able to rescue the drinks as well. A scary moment, as things like that can lead to injuries and cramps.

As the temperature was nice, we were able to keep a decent pace. Check point 6 was reached a few minutes before the schedule time which was a good thing. As there was more downhill and some rocky paths, we were not able to speed up that much more. Important was that we were still together as team and that the spirits were up. I wasn’t doing that great, maybe a bit toooo much sports drink, or too high concentration sportdrink. Felt really bloated and felt if I was going to eat anything it was coming out faster then it went in. So being carefull now was key….Loosing your energy is a no go on events like this.

We arranged a meeting point at the bbq pit close to Ching Mun reservoir to meet the team for some refreshments if needed. Quite a hilarious story for the support team took place before they managed to get there. As no one had ever driven there before, they kind of got lost. After getting worried they would not be there in time the team stopped to ask a police officer for help. More interesting was that they had been able to convince the officer to drive ahead and guide them to the spot. In no time they arrived at the bbq pit, no walking involved as originally was planned. SiuShan and Monica decided to walk towards us. Close to the end of section 6 we saw 2 people sitting on a fench. I was thinking, hmm what are those people doing there at this time of the day (evening actually). Then I realized it were Monica and SiuShan. We did the last downhill bit to the BBQ pit altogether. There was a moment to top up food and drinks. I felt quite nausea there and all the bbq fumes didn’t help either. So, decided to drink only water from there on.

No it was time for the next interesting bit, the start of the last set of uphill. Section 7 begins with a steep uphill leading towards the by many feared Needlehill. Getting up the hill was decent work as normal. The quads were protesting a little when going uphill, but I wouldn’t slow down too much there. Even though I was still taking over some people, I was taken over as well. Anyway, I tried not to loose so much between me and the rest of the guys. They went ahead a little as they are fast uphill but slower downhill. Slow but steady I reached the top of needle hill where Taco was waiting to make sure I was allright. Then the big steep downhill, anyone who has ever done Needle hill knows the steep bit behind it can be interesting in the dark. Anyway, going down steady I tried to catch up with the boys. My goodness I was hitting the man with the hammer on that stretch. The first part on grassy hill was giving me a bit of a mental challenge. After that was conquered it was not to bad. I always visualize a silly picture that I saw last year. A woman all in pink walking around there. It was such a funny face. Anyway, now we got to the steep downhill leading to CP7 at lead mine pass. On the downhill I recovered a little and caught up with the boys again. We arrived at the checkpoint more then 20minutes behind our 20hr schedule. It was now important to minimize anymore delays to make sure we could meet our target. That was easier said then done, as everyone felt quit buggered up at this stage. We decided to refill water where needed, have soup or coffee or whatever before moving on. SO after a 3 minute stop it was time to go for our last serious challenge. TAI MO SHAN! HERE WE COME….. As I could feel the quads a little here, I was looking to push as much as possible on the uphill without getting into the cramp up zone.

Whils going up I started to recover which allowed me to speed up a little. That made me happy and confident that I was going to meet the rest of the team again shortly and then blast down the hill. Whilst I was speeding up, I ran into Pete. He was getting worse and worse, his knees hurted and basically he was getting a total state of being messed up. Section 8 goes either up or down, there is not much flat to be found there. At the time we reached the paved road at section 8, just before the last steep part of Tai Mo Shan, Pete was pretty much done. When we finally arrived at the top, there was Taco waiting for us again. Duncan had gone down already as he expected to need some time with his knees. Waiting on top of the mountain is quite a challenge as it can be chilly there due to the wind blowing around. Pete sat down for a few moments to get some energy back before we decided to go down. Going down went slower and slower as his knees started to play up as well. The more we went down, the less promising it started to look. WE tried to communicate with the support team how we were getting along. This is a challenge as mobile phone reception is not very good there either. The last bit going down Pete was focussing on the white lines on the road to make sure he was not going too much off track.

When we reached CP8, we had a teammember in a bad state which was way more worrying then the time. After we checked in, we walked towards the support point. We all tried to eat, drink and change clothes for the last stretch. I tried to watch Pete as well and encourage him to eat and drink. However, after a few minutes it became clear that he was not doing very well. We started the discussion on what to do. As one of the main goals of trailwalker is to finish as a team, my main priority was to do that. If there was anyway that we could finish as team after Pete had a break to recover then we would go for that. However, it looked like he was going to need more time then just half an hour or 1 hour. It was still a little bit more then 20KM to go and communications were not that super on the part to come. Carrying someone of his size for that distance is not really an option either. As it became clear that we were going to continue as 3 people, the suggestion was raised to drop out as whole team. I refused this as it wasn’t going to help Pete to get better faster and I believed that the rest of the team was able and capable of continuing and at least put a crown on the training we had done.

Since we were no longer a full team, and way behind our schedule….I expressed that for me finishing was my main goal. Timewise it would be nice finish a little faster then last year. So we did. Section 9 we did in a decent pace. No serious running or so. As we were not able to meet our original objectives, I wanted to try to finish without being completely buggered. All my last big events put me on injuries that took months recovery. Reaching checkpoint 9 in not bad shape we sat down for a minute to have some soup and a byte and go for the last stretch. Melissa was walking with us again from CP8 onwards. Whils we went underway for the last section, the competitiveness came up again and triggered us to run. My left knee started to play up a little here as well and the last thing I wanted was to get completely buggered in the last stretch. Anyway, it didn’t feel right that teams are started to take us over so we decided to run a bit more. Duncan had gone ahead a little here as well. Section 10 is alongside a lake and not really that interesting as it is a long winding road which looks the same around every corner.

After the lake bit, there is a stretch of 4-5 km on catchment… absolutely boring as well. Taco, Melissa and me ran and walked that bit. Even though it was close to the end, I was carefull not to bugger up my knee more the needed to finish. Getting close to the finish, Duncan was waiting for us and as you can see at attached photo’s the remainder of the team crossed the finish line after around 21:21hrs. Altough finished, it didn’t feel that great since we didn’t finish as full team, altough satisfied that I was able to tick one more 100km off on the list.





Next year again? Not sure about that yet… the event itself is not bad, but it takes a lot of training. And that was exactly what I was lacking a little bit. The rest of the team had done a few 50KM the weeks before the event. Due to my travel schedule, I wasn’t able to fit that in.

Anyway, a big thanks to Amy, Melissa, Philip, SiuShan, Wendy to sacrifice their (free) time to support us! A support team is crucial in events like this, and it is by no means an easy job. Thanks to Taco and Melissa to make their car available for the team.

Thanks to Duncan, Pete and Taco for the commitment….

Thanks to all sponsors who have donated…. Or will put in their donation before the 13th of December…..


If you made it to hear, thanks a lot and congratulations….it was a long read.

Best regards,

Marcel