Unfortunately the HK 100 was a DNS for me this year. A calf problem prevented me from taking to the start line and I spent race day supporting my team mates instead. There were some great performances from the Compressport team with Gediminas Grinius 3rd, Pau Capell 4th, Yeray Duran 5th and Elisabet Margeirsdottir 5th female. Pau Bartolo and Arnaud Lejeune both started but had to drop out with problems.
Despite the disappointment of not being able to race I had a great week in Hong Kong with my team mates and the whole crew from Active Brands Asia and Escapade Sports. It was great to work with photographer Lloyd Belcher again in typically Scottish weather conditions along with Icelandic trail star Elisabet Margeirsdottir. Pictures can be viewed here.
Thanks to everyone who came along to my Q&A night in Escapade Sports, it was really good to meet everyone and hopefully you found it useful. Special thanks to Stefanie Ross Hemshall, Tiffany Yam and Lo Wai Kin. See you guys soon.
Another real positive to come from the week was a successful meeting with Martin Cai and Lorena Compean, organisers of The Green Retreat, an exciting new training camp taking place in Thailand in March, more details about this to come soon. I rounded out the week with a catch up with Tim and Fenny from AMO Sunglasses followed by a great night out with some of the local trail running community and runners from around the world. See you next time Hong Kong.
Onwards and upwards for the Mallorca 5000!
With the Hong Kong Trailwalker still in my legs I made the trip to the south of Spain for the Ultra maraton costa de Almeria. I wouldn’t normally race 2 long races so close together but I had been invited by good friends and if nothing else it was a good chance to escape the miserable conditions we’ve been having in the UK.
The race itself was 90km starting from Agua Amarga and finishing in Almeria passing through the stunning national park of Cabo de Gata along the way. At 7am in Agua Amarga the air was cold and sunrise was still an hour away as the race got underway. I was happy to get moving just to warm up. On the first climb I settled into a group with 4 or 5 other runners at the head of the field and was happy just to go with the pace while it was still dark. I really had no idea what to expect from my legs so didn’t want to push too hard too soon.
I stayed with the group until the first checkpoint at 13km at which point the sun was coming up. I got a real boost from the sunrise lighting up the desert landscape and decided to start pushing on. I opened up the gap fairly quickly and it continued to grow as we made our way up over the biggest climb of the day. The scenery here is pretty spectacular, made famous by movies like Indiana Jones and the last crusade and Lawrence of Arabia as well as many westerns.
I was alone from this point onwards until I started to catch the marathon runners who would start further along the course at 10am. I was definitely feeling the effects of Hong Kong with no zip in my legs and just a real lack of energy. I met my friends Antonio and Mar at the checkpoint at 45km and this gave me a much needed morale boost. They gave me my gels and sent me on my way. After another 15km of climbs and descents I arrived at the coast with 30km of flat to the finish, it sounded like a very long way in my mind! I had to really focus to keep a decent pace and was beginning to hurt a lot, my quads were gone. The checkpoint at 75km came just at the right moment, a chance to refuel and a welcome boost from seeing my friends. I knew I could keep it together for another 15km to the finish and I still had something in reserve if I was dragged into a race. Fortunately the last 15km were pretty uneventful but a sufferfest all the same! It was great to win and to share it with the people who had helped me along the way. Massive thanks to Antonio for his organisational skills and all of the Albaladejo family for a brilliant time in Almeria.
Onwards and Upwards for 2016!
It was a video of UTMB 2011 that inspired me to try Ultra trail running, the video featured Kilian, Iker and Miguel all running together and working as a team. I thought it looked amazing, 3 guys in the same team uniform all tapping out the same rhythm across stunning landscapes covering crazy distances, I knew I had to try it. Fast forward 4 years and I find myself in Hong Kong with 3 of the best ultra trail runners in the world, Julien Chorier, Yeray Duran and Pau Capell. Together we made up the Compressport International team for the Hong Kong Trailwalker 100km.
The race covers 100km across the stunning mountains of the new territories and the rules dictate that we must stay together as a team of 4 from start to finish, not easy in this company!
On the stroke of 8.30am we were off but not as quickly as the Nepali team, Ive never seen a team start a race so quickly, literally sprinting for the first 300m, it was crazy. We just settled into our own pace and after about a km we took the lead from an already disjointed looking Nepali team. At the 3km point we came to a junction which was manned by police and race officials, they directed us off the road and onto a trail where we continued to follow the pink and silver markers of the race for the next 6km. At just under 9km with 300m+ we reached the end of the trail and came back out onto the main road right back at the start line. Everyone seemed surprised and confused as to why we were there and nobody could tell us where we were supposed to go, we wasted a lot of time going backwards and forwards trying to work out what had happened but none of the race officials wanted to know. Eventually we discovered that we shouldn’t have been sent down the trail at the 3km point so god only knows why there were race markers down there (someone mentioned afterwards that they were for another race on the same day using the same markers but i don’t know for sure). My GPS file shows that we set off from the start again almost 55 minutes behind the field, we were furious and it was soul destroying to think we had flown all that way for something so ridiculous to happen. We reached the 3km point again where a few choice words were exchanged and that seemed to settle us down knowing now that we were back on the course. We decided just to do what we could and set about the task of reeling in as many teams as possible.
I was really proud of the way we pulled together and didn't let the setback consume our thoughts. We just worked hard and helped one another as and when required.I was so impressed with the strength of Yeray and Pau. Julien was having a tough day and those guys were unbelievable in helping him on the climbs. Pau at only 24 years old has a huge future in the sport.
As the day went on we caught and passed team after team spurred on by our awesome support crew in every checkpoint. We were so lucky to have amazing support in all 9 checkpoints who refilled our water and gave each of us our preferred nutrition to see us through. We even had support runners at a couple of points who would refuel us as we ran. I can’t thank the support crew enough. Eventually we found ourselves in 3rd position but we just didn't have enough to catch 1st and 2nd. The finish line was easily my favourite moment of any race I’ve ever done. To share that moment with those 3 guys and our support team after suffering together all day was just unbelievable. It wasn't the result we were hoping for but after the events at the start it felt as good as a win and so much better than I ever imagined when I watched that video in 2011. Long live Team Xempower Compressport!!!!