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3 Series - We ask Asia's best runners what 3 things they need on the trails

Posted by John Ellis on

In this regular series of interviews, we ask some of Asia's best runners what are the 3 things that just can't do without on the trails.

Andre Blumberg - August 2015

We like to refer to Andre as the "ultra granddaddy of Hong Kong ultra trail running". Originally from Germany, Andre is a 20-year veteran in Asia but only started running a little over 5 years ago, and quickly established his ultra sweet spot at 100 miles or longer. These days, he doesn't get out of bed for a measly 100km.... 

In 2013, he became the first Asia ex-Japan based runner to complete the iconic Grand Slam of Ultrarunning™ in the US and followed this up last year with the 135 mile Badwater and then a single stage 200+ miler around Lake Tahoe. After a little break from racing, Andre took on the Angeles Crest 100 miler around the San Gabriel Mountains outside Los Angeles just this month, and finished in a very respectable 31:51.

He is also the founder and only two-time finisher of the mega Hong Kong Four Trails Ultra challenge, which still scares the bejesus out of us. 

Here are Andre’s insights across three gear categories for "going extra long".

Nutrition and supplements - "I regularly like to try new options. Currently my staple source of energy is Tailwind Nutrition. It is very easy on my stomach and even worked well in the brutal Badwater heat and the mountain peak altitude around Tahoe. An added bonus is the included electrolytes. In addition, I take half a dozen Master Amino Acid Pattern (MAP) tablets to reduce premature muscle breakdown. No Doz caffeine tablets help me battle the sleep demons and there is in my view nothing better than First Endurance Ultragen for recovery.

Anti-chafing, anti-blistering - "What I found out the hard and painful way was that once you go past the 100km distance, commodity solutions from your corner pharmacy usually don’t cut it. After trying out many options, I’ve settled on Gurney Goo from New Zealand to keep me chafe-free. I also always tape my nipples with Band-Aid Tough Strips. During long races I usually wear two layers of socks, Injini inside and Drymax outside, to reduce friction and prevent blistering on my feet."

Lighting - "I have trouble seeing at night, whether that is driving on a highway or running on a lonely mountain trail. Good quality lighting is critical for me and it’s an essential investment in safety against tripping, getting lost, and staying mentally alert. Lupine Lights, engineered and manufactured in Germany, are my no-compromise choice here. I have all of their models ranging from 700 to 4,500 lumens but mostly use the 1,200 lumens Piko headlight. Every model has programmable settings for the right balance between brightness and battery life to suit every type of terrain."


Photo credit: Patchanida Pongsubkarun

Dan Falconar - May 2015

UK-born Dan has already proven his multi-sport expertise with some big results across road running, trail running, swimming and on the bike, despite being in Hong Kong for less than a year. The highlights have been a series win in the HK Triathlon Association Duathlon M30-34, 1st mixed pairs in the East Aquathon, 1st male pairs in the HK Multisports Rally TT 26km, 2nd in the MSIG Sai Kung 24km, and top 10 overall finishes at Lantau 2 Peaks, KOTH Sai Kung, Lantau Vertical and the AVOHK 5km series.

With a full trail racing season under his belt and having adjusted to the humidity, we can't wait to see what the future holds. So what are Dan's 3 gear tips for the trails?

1. "After-market in-soles for my running shoes. Whenever I get a new pair of shoes, the first thing I do is throw out the stock in-soles and replace them with more cushiony in-soles. I use Sof Sole. I'm not as light as your average trail runner so I like to have good cushioning to save my joints."

2. "Polar V800 watch and heart rate monitor. I love data and post-workout analysis. Every session / race is a learning experience, the analysis of which is more scientific with data. The V800 is a great watch that does multi-sport, GPS, activity tracking, heart rate, smart notifications from my phone and loads more. Looks good too!"

3. "AMO Transformer sports sunglasses. Aside from the obvious sun protection, it's good to have eye protection when bulldozing through the overgrown trails as there are often twigs, spiders and other nasties that are best not in the eyes! I have multiple lenses for different light conditions, and even lenses that get darker in bright light. The AMO sunglasses are light, don't fall off, look great, and allow me to adjust the fit on the fly."


Photo credit: Action Asia Events

Eric LaHaie - April 2015

Despite racing less often these days, Eric remains one of Hong Kong's premier trail runners. He boasts an incredible multi-sport CV including former Harvard football player and All-Ivy league safety before coming to Hong Kong in 2006, where he started ultra running and dropped 20kg!

Big event wins include the 250km 4Deserts Gobi March in 2009 and the 60-mile Taklamakan Ultra in 2010 (beating HK100 winner Yun Yanqiao by almost 3 hours), as well as second in the 2011 4Deserts Sahara Race, and regular top 5 finisher at the Oxfam Trailwalker with his 2XU team. He has a marathon PB of 2:46.

1. "When running, your feet and legs are doing most of the work and taking most of the impact and shock - even more so in trail running with the additional lateral and horizontal movements. Therefore, taking care of your feet and legs is the number one priority for a trail runner, in my opinion. I love my HOKA ONE ONEs for their grip, cushioning and shoe weight. I especially like the Huaka and Bondi models which are city / trail models perfect for Hong Kong terrain."

2. "Good socks are also an essential out on the trails. I alternate between synthetic socks (Drymax brand) and merino socks (Icebreaker brand) as both offer the best combination of cushioning, breathability and durability."

3. "You need a visor or hat for sun protection and, most importantly, keeping the sweat out of your eyes. I wear a visor 80% of the time, and a hat about 20% - but only if its a bit cooler outside, so Dec / Jan. I have a several go-to pieces that I rotate through, including my 2XU and TNF visors."


Photo credit - Lloyd Belcher

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