Hong Kong Four Trails Ultra Challenge - 2017 Recap
Posted on March 20 2017
A big thanks to founder Andre Blumberg as well as the 2017 finishers and survivors who downloaded some great memories and advice from this year's historic event - Stone Tsang 54:15, Jonathan Ng 66:54, Leo Chung 72:21 and Matthew Mok 78:10.
For anyone considering running HK4TUC, here are some top tips from the Andre and the runners:
Andre has set out deliberately to make the 25-strong field a cross-section of nationalities, gender, skills and speed, but you should have completed a 100K trail race as a minimum and you'll definitely need a solid base on endurance running including hills.
Probably more important is the mental side. You need to really understand your motivation for entering as you'll be tested again and again during the challenge. If you're not fully committed to finishing, you probably won't finish.
Planning is critical. Runners weren't so concerned about food stops as there were enough shops open, even during Chinese New Year. The section from Pui O to Tai O was the one exception to this. However, knowing where you can refill water is essential and some runners brought a Sawyer Mini Water Filter so they could drink au naturale!
Sleep deprivation was the single hardest thing about the challenge. For many runners, this was the first time they had gone two straight nights without a proper sleep and it resulted in sleep walking and hallucinations. Average sleep times were only 2-3 hours over the 2.5 days, but 5-10 minute power naps were invigorating and didn't suck too much time.
Navigation was also a big issue. Even Stone, who has run Trailwalker umpteen times, got lost at the start, as HK4TUC follows the original trails. It might seem strange, but doing the trails in reverse can be completely different to going forwards. Try to recce the trails in reverse if possible, or at least upload the trails to your GPS watch.
Hardest trail? Surprisingly, it was Hong Kong trail, the shortest trail at only 50K. This was a combination of it being the second night, probably expectations that were too low (the reverse direction is a net 800m more climbing) and too little variation as mostly quite runnable.
The cut-offs are tight so you can't afford to lose time anywhere, including logistics. Have a rehearsed pit stop plan and hopefully your crew car will have a good sleeping area (van etc). Some crews had their runners packed up and on the move within five minutes of finishing a trail last year, F1 style!
Best of luck to anyone running HK4TUC in 2018 and remember that the Survivor cut-off has been reduced to 75 hours next year. It's over Chinese New Year again (17-19 Feb) and strictly by invitation only for safety reasons. Or, if you want to try the slightly easier version before taking on the Big Daddy, there is the Hong Kong 4in4 Challenge, which is the same format as the inaugural 2012 original.
For more information, go to https://www.facebook.com/HK4TUC/.