SAI KUNG 25
It all started with an email from Lauri, president of the International Skyrunning Federation, back in late November about a sky race in Hong Kong early December. Too short notice and other plans already set, I passed but the seed had been planted and my interest kept growing.
I got in touch with Action Asia Events RD Michael Maddess and after being accepted as part of the Elite runners for the Asian Continental Championships in the Sky distance, I helped completing the European squad to come compete with local athletes.
So instead of putting an end to my season after a failed 50miler in San Francisco early December, I stretched it with quality workouts to regain speed and climbing skills. I won’t lie, it was mentally tough to push through an already long season, while dealing with essential personal and professional life changes. But my thirst for adventures was too great, and with the support of family, friends and local runners around annecy, I managed to get the sessions in, stay on top of things and have a decent preparation for the race. I even managed to land one hell of a job, and it surely helped to put things in new perspective.
Fast forward to February 4th. I just landed in Hong Kong for what is my first trip in Asia. Excited and a tad anxious about dealing with a language I knew nothing about, here I was on my usual routine at the airport, getting myself a local SIM card and finding my way to the place I would stay until the race.
Yet, thing turned out to happen way smoothly than I expected as i spotted a young student holding a sing with “Skyrunning Asian Championships”. Next thing I know she welcomes me in perfect English and guides me to a taxi that she would ride with me all the way to my accommodation. During the ride, we chatted and after she delivered all information, image release, schedule for photoshoot and media conference, she even taught me a few words in Cantonese. I seriously felt like James Bond kicking off a mission abroad.
I unpacked and in a now usual routine, I went on for a shake out jogg to map out a personal perception the surroundings and the start that happened to be only a few Ks away.
Later that night, I welcomed my fellow runner and dear friend Luke Nelson as a new room mate. He had been traveling from the other side of the world towards Hong Kong. Good catch up and off for a good night of sleep.
The next day, while most of us were arriving I was invited by Luke to join a Patagonia photoshoot. It was a great opportunity to go check out the part of the 50k race I would miss, and perhaps even more importantly getting to experience Hong Kong from the inside, with locals.
A longer day out there than expected yet worth every minute, led to a proper seafood dinner where we got to pick alive what we would be later be served wonderfully cooked. Awesome.
We came back early to check in into another dorm room with other runners and my fellow Scott Athletes Marco DiGasperi and Elisa Desco. Along came the rest of the Italian mafia with Fulvio Dapit (crazy idea), Stephanie Gimenez (Salomon) and Alexandra (Instinct).
After a short night accommodating with jet lag and intensive snoring (!), Luke and I went for a last run on a local trail that was another preview about what was awaiting us on race day. I felt pretty good on that 30′ run and was excited and eager to compete. A good sign.
The rest of the day was spent on a photoshoot lead by Lloyd Belcher and media interview where I finally got to meet Simon Freeman who’s the man behind the raising running magazine from the UK “Like The Wind”. I also got to catch up with Sho Fujimaki who’s one of the most outdoor popular photographer in Japan and who I had the pleasure to meet several times at international events. Good people, good times, this trip was already a success and I hadn’t even been served with what was going to be hell of a race.
The race went on and it honestly didn’t unfolded quite as planned, actually not at all! I went out too fast, blew up, fell twice, broke my hand held water bottle after the first aid station, cramped and flet sluggish. Put that way, it really sounds bad and yet I had an awesome time.
The course was unbelievable, tough, way tougher than I expected actually, people were all smiling, and as opposed to what happened to a bunch of people, I didn’t get lost. I crossed the finish line exhausted but already hungry for more.
Another sign that confirmed my choice to step down from Ultra to Sky distance in the Skyrunner World Series. You go all out – well I guess I should better learn to pace myself in future races – but I didn’t feel like I damaged my body nearly as much as I used to at the end of ultras.
I’ll need to improve A LOT of things to get better at it, but for now, 7th wasn’t too bad.
The trip carried on just as awesome as it started, with a gathering with athletes and media in the city center, and a night drink and food exploration with a bunch of good friends.