A runner's guide to the TransLantau 100 (2015)
Posted on February 23 2015
** Please note the course has been reversed and changed for 2016 **
In only its third year, the TransLantau 100 has already established itself as one of the blue ribbon events on the Hong Kong ultra trail calendar. It is also one of Hong Kong’s toughest, with DNF rates of 29% in 2013 and 32% in 2014, however, that hasn't stopped another record field headed by local favourites Vlad Ixel and Santosh Bishwash, and Australian Majell Backhausen in the 50km.
With the 13 March 2015 kick-off only a few weeks away, we thought we would preview the race, with tips on the course, equipment and strategy (plus a course GPX file) to help you get to the finish line in one piece and, hopefully, in good time too.
Photo credit: A Photography
With outside support limited to food and drink at CPs, and no drop bag runners will need to carry their gear for the whole race. This means gear selection is critical - you will want to pack for every realistic scenario, but also avoid carrying unnecessary weight.
Minimum of 1 litre of water - unless you're Anton Krupicka, this will invariably mean a backpack. Many races require that you carry everything bar the kitchen sink, but TransLantau Race Director Clement Dumont has got it right with a sensible list of required kit. This means a smaller backpack will suffice. Depending on how you take your water, we like the Salomon S-LAB Advanced Skin 5L (bladder) and the Ultimate Direction SJ Race Vest (front bottles). Both are well designed, super comfortable with minimal bouncing, and have heaps of easy access pockets.
Two headlamps with replacement batteries - our strategy here is one reliable, top quality headlamp, with a minimalist backup to save weight. We love our Ay-Ups for 700 lumens of dual-light power, but you'll need a spare battery for this race and they are not cheap. Another excellent option is the LED Lenser H7R.2, which has only just been released in Hong Kong and packs 300 lumens of high quality light from its unique lens-reflector system. It also features fully adjustable power and light (narrow beam to diffused light) and a fully rechargeable battery that should last the 7 hours required on a medium-high setting, plus the option to swap in 4 x AAAs. Lithiums are a great race alternative - expensive but twice the capacity and half the weight. We'll be pairing this with the LED Lenser K1L hand torch - its 13 lumens are enough to get by in an emergency, and it weighs less than 8 grams.
Windproof jacket - check the weather forecast but a lightweight jacket should be enough. March is usually fairly dry, with temperatures averaging 16C minimum to 21C maximum. Also, the night leg is upfront where most runners should be still moving well - but you might want something more heavy duty if this will be a two-nighter for you. Unless the meteorologists are predicting heavy storms, I will personally be using my Mont Bell Tachyon jacket - it really is "featherlight" at only 50 grams, has a tucked in hood, keeps the wind off well, and will handle a few surprise showers with ease. Otherwise, I will be packing my Salomon Bonatti WP jacket - it's completely waterproof, comfortable for running and doesn't "stick" to skin.
Personal cup - consider using a soft bottle instead, as it will let you take your drink to go (even hot drinks like tea or soup), and will also fold up into a lightweight minimal package when not in use. We like the Salomon Soft Flask which comes in three sizes, 500ml, 250ml and 150ml, which weigh just 30, 20 and 12 grams respectively.
Minimum 200 calories - nutrition is really up to personal preference. Suffice to say, try everything first in training and nothing new on race day. Personally, for longer races, I need a more stable, longer lasting baseload energy to supplement the "spikes" I get from gels. My personal fave is Hammer Perpetuem Caffe Latte as it comes in a handy single serving pack, tastes good (if you like coffee), contains protein to avoid muscle breakdown, and is easy on the stomach, even if you like to throw down two packs at a time as I do, pre-race and around halfway. I like to top this up with hourly gels - some good flavours to try are GU Salted Caramel, GU Caramel Macchiato, Hammer Apple Cinnamon, and then PowerGel Hydro Cola for a caffeine-powered finishing kick.
Other gear you'll need to bring includes your race bib, a whistle, emergency space blanket, cap or buff, adhesive strapping tape, a mobile phone and minimum HK$100.
GPS watch - it's amazing how many runners we see with swish bang GPS watches but who don't use the navigation features. Even if you've recced the course, funny things happen on races and it's easy to take a wrong turn that can ruin your race. Admittedly, the graphics are pretty basic but it's quite easy to get the hang of keeping the little triangle (you) on the squiggly line (route). The GPX file upload to your watch only takes a few minutes, if you can find someone to give you one. Luckily, we have the TransLantau course (with 2015 route changes) in the link below - but remember it's a guide and the course markings take precedence! Value for features, our favourite GPS watch is the Garmin Forerunner 920XT with rechargeable 24-40 hours Li-ion battery, multi-sport capability, wireless connection to your smartphone, plus heart rate and "Running Dynamics" data for the science geeks. For those that prefer a more versatile watch, we like the Suunto Ambit3 Peak Black for a similar stack of features but won't look out of place in the boardroom.
Hiking poles - I usually only pull out the sticks for monster courses and was really glad I took them last year. Poles will keep your legs fresher on the many sharp climbs at TransLantau, and will even help you with forward momentum on the runnable sections in the last 25km. I use Black Diamond Ultra Distance Carbon Z as they are rock solid, have a simple locking / unlocking mechanism, and are lightweight at just 280 to 295 grams, important as you'll need to carry them the entire race. They also fold down to 33-44 centimeters so you can strap them to your pack, although I like to just carry them in one hand as I run.
Sunscreen - easy to forget when heading out at 11:30pm at night, but either pre-apply or bring along a small tube.
Lubricant - very important and has stopped many a decent runner dead in their tracks, especially in Hong Kong, where the high humidity results in soggy clothes which chafe much worse. You'll need a high quality product, and ideally one that comes in a small portable pack, like Gurney Goo from New Zealand, or Pjur Back Door Relaxing Glide. Apply liberally to any potential problem areas, like the groin, armpits, nipples (you may prefer bandaids) and also feet - yes feet! Since lubing up my feet, I've hardly ever had an issue with blisters. Bring along a small tube for re-application, if required, and hit those hot spots early.
In a nutshell, this course is a doozy. Even with 300m less climbing given a forced course change on stage 2, it's still 5,800m D+ which, versus the Maclehose, is 30% more climbing with a 33% shorter cut-off (32 hours). The temptation will be to push hard over the hilly early stages, to take advantage of the cooler early morning temperatures, but you should save some legs for the final quarter, which is mostly quite runnable.
Stage 1 - 12km to CP1 Pak Mong (12km)
The race starts on Silvermine Beach, with a short out and back on the beach, before heading through Mui Wo village. There is a stair bottleneck after 1km at the first stairs, so don't dally if you don't want to get held up. The next 6km is fairly constant uphill for around 400m D+. It’s easy to go out too hard here and ruin the rest of your race – take it easy! The next 3km is mostly sketchy downhill and takes you back to sea level, before an easy level canter to the village of Pak Mong.
Stage 2 - 10km to CP2 Pak Kung Au (22km)
This was easily the toughest section last year with 1,200m D+ in just 10km, including a 450m climb up Pok To Yan, the famous ultra-steep bum-scooting KOTH downhill and then the Lantau Two Peaks stairs up to Sunset Peak. This year's race will follow the 50km route, with a long steady climb up to Sunset Peak via Lin Fa Shan and the reverse KOTH full marathon route. Again, pacing will be critical - it's easy to push too hard in the cooler early morning weather but 900m D+ is still a slog so leave some climbing legs for the later stages.
Stage 3 - 12km to CP3 Ngong Ping (34km)
A slightly easier section, with a fairly flat run along the SouthLantau Country Trail, before dropping down to join Lantau Trail, running backwards along the catchwater on stage 10. Just before hitting Shek Pik Reservoir, the course turns right up the Lantau Vertical course, a fairly constant climb, ascending 370m D+ in 5km, before taking the left turn to Ngong Ping.
Stage 4 - 11km to CP4 Kau Ling Chung (45km)
Quite a fast section, initially following Lantau Trail section 4 for a 3.5km road downhill, before continuing along section 5, up and down both Kwun Yam Shan and Keung Shan. The course turns left off Lantau Trail after descending Keung Shan, with a steady downhill through to the CP. Don't forget to look up and enjoy the panoramic views!
Stage 5 - 12km to CP5 Tai O (57km)
Those who have run Lantau Base Camp's Lantau 70 will recognise this as part of the third leg, but in reverse. Start by climbing from sea level up to the 430m high Sham Hang Lek peak, where the countryside really opens up, before meandering over a few small hills. At around 53km, follow the steep stairs downhill to the final 4km coastal section to the CP, just outside Tai O.
12km to CP6 Ngong Ping (69km)
Starts with an interesting flat section through the village, then the beautiful and quite runnable Tung O Ancient Trail - one of my personal favourite trails in Hong Kong - but take it easy here. At 64km, after the road starts to turn up, there is a sharp right into a brutal uphill bushwhack, where you’ll climb 540m in 3km. This is the toughest climb on the course and will spit you out at the cable car. From here, follow the contour around Nei Lek Shan to the CP at Ngong Ping, just like the Lantau Two Peaks course.
5km to CP7 Pak Kung Au (74km)
Only 5km but don't underestimate it. Most people will know this leg with the big steep stairs up to Lantau Peak, same as Moontrekker, KOTH and Lantau 70. If you have pushed too hard on the previous hills, this will hurt but is your last major climb. The stage finishes with the the big steps down the other side to the road before Sunset Peak.
10km to CP8 Chi Ma Wan (84km)
Follows the KOTH contour around Sunset Peak, then mostly downhill to Chi Ma Wan, except for one smallish hill after the KOTH start at Nam Shan. Save some legs for this as you can pick up good time if you’re moving well - this should be your quickest stage of the day.
11km to CP9 Shap Long (95km)
This is another easier, more runnable stage, but it won't feel like it with an all-nighter and over 80km under your belt. Apart from a medium climb over Lo Yan Shan to start, this is mostly flat and downhill as you wind your way around the Chi Ma Wan peninsula, with only a few small ascents.
5km to Finish at Silvermine Beach (100km)
Moontrekkers will recognise this section as the starting 5km, but in reverse. At just 5km on mostly flat along the coastal trail back to Mui Wo, the final stage is really just a formality, but will be a grind on tired legs. Enjoy this final stage - you've trained hard, pushed through some low points during the race, and are about to finish a monster of a course. That finishing TransLantau beer is in sight.
See you at the start on 13 March!Check the route in