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Having escaped from the clutches of work I was most keen to get my legs and mind liberated by a bit of wholesome trail running. Actually I was desperate!!
Fortunately for me at the last minute, an opportunity arose to spend a couple of nights in Hong Kong, meaning that I would be able to meet an old mate and partake of some trail fun, as well as good food while I was there.
The islands are suprisingly rural outside of the city limits which are actually quite confined to the lowlands. I think 60% of the landmass is designated as National Park, and trails and forest brush up against high rise and downtown locations right the way through what I saw of the islands. The trails are endless, and Lantau Island – one of the remoter trail destinations here, with some of the larger hills and epic trails is very close to the airport and is most convenient.
I chose to run on Hong Kong Island itself, as I could meet Brendan there and check out his office / downtown HK and have a potter along the Hong Kong Trail.
The views are supposed to be legendary, but of course during my visit the cloud was really low and made for just occasional spectacles along the way but the trail itself was fantastic.
Having caught the futuristic train into HK station I met Brendan and after a spot of breakfast with Brendan and his girlfriend Steph ( my 2nd breakfast of the day) we headed up onto The Peak and the official start of the Hong Kong Trail, just above the centre of town, a short taxi ride uphill, after arranging to meet Steph later in the day to to continue running with us.
The legendary views of the HK harbour from The Peak were nowhere to be seen and it was damp and chilly which was a shock, but the trail kicks off with a lovely rolling downhill section to warm the legs up. We intended to do about half of the trail – the whole thing is a 50km trip and looks great .
The cool thing about HK too and the area generally is whenever you hit a road you can flag down a taxi which are cheap too use, so however far you get , you will always find your way back to your hotel / starting point.
Brendan regaled me with information about the New Territories trails and so many other places to visit that it was a shame to be visiting only for a day!! A return visit for a longer spell is definitely required.
The Hong Kong Trail is a great rolling trip contouring, climbing and descending around the island on a variety of tracks from tarmac paths and stone concrete steps to tree rooted and rocky tracks, a great variety and the kilometers slip under ones feet almost effortlessly ( surprising as this is my first run in 3 weeks ).
After 20 km and some awsome trail we catch up with Steph, and run jog to a garage in the middle of a posh residential area, just off the wild trails to stock up on water and snack, before heading off on another trail through Tai Tam Park down to the coast involving plenty of steps and a fine ridge with no doubt amazing views to finish in Repulse bay.
A walk through thee market and a bit of sight seeing led us to a fine vietnamese restaurant in an old colonial building ( moved here stone by stone apparently and rebuilt on the spot ) where they didnt mind at all that we were sweaty and dressed in trail running clothing a la European style – (compresssion this that and the other etc…)
A great day out and a thoroughly whetted apetite.
The land of many long distance events, here is a fine challenge that has just been completed – the 4 main trails in 4 days:- Check this link out – a great multi day event no doubt and quite insane
For us, our running day was complete so it was a tourist trip taxi ride across HK Island to see the sights and then a wander through downtown HK later, plus a very fine Moroccan restaurant, then an epic foot massage – Reflexology – where we all suffered some pain as our Chi channels were unblocked and the day was finished….
I bid farewell to me mates and headed back on the futuristic train to arrive around 2330hrs back at the hotel ready for the flight to Cambodia in the morning.
I felt refreshed and cleansed of work, and really keen to visit again… Next stop Cambodia and Phnom Penh first befor eheading North to Mondulkir and the Elephant Valley Project
Since my return from Kazakhstan, I have done only a small amount of running, with more biking and skiing thrown in. This is all mostly to do with a stomach bug on my return from Kazakhstan before Christmas and then a bit of a savage cold after Christmas that dragged on a bit – I have heard it called Manthrax by some….
Fortunatey it had cleared by new year and I got some good running on the roads and ttrails round here and also a good blast up to the surge pool from the vilage and back in my best time yet of 1 hr dor to door, but from the Slate Museum Car Park and back I made it in 47 minutes, so prety pleased with that. I followed that later the same day with a road bike blast upto the top of Llanberis Pass in a respectable 27 min from home, and back in 40 minutes overall, with a big head wind on the ascent…
It was great to get up high again on Elidir as it has been a while on the flat lands, and it also put paid to the last remnants of my cold…
A Brenta Dolimtes ski trip with our family went down very well, and we have just got back, however I am nursing a bad back – suffered during the frst day skiing – no idea what happened but it has rquired a certain degree of pain management and groaning to get moving in the mornings before long days out on the slopes… Roll on Monday, when I will get it treated…Hopefully fixed properly and back onto the running mission..
I managed one spin out in the evening whilst skiing but decided to avoid extra back stress and concentrate on ski fun instead..
It now seems as though I have only a few days before I head out to work in Papua New Guinea so need to make the most of the time now….Biking tody then a run later hopefuly and I really want to get a tour of Snowdon run in before I go to work – maybe Tuesday night… Be fun in the dark..
After the first stint of work in PNG, I will be heading to Cambodia to catch up with Helen at the Elephant Valley Project for a month, and hope to spend some good time running there as well as volunteering on the project, as I did last year..
More details later..
I am also hoping to enter the Tor des Geants ths year – a 330km run around the Aosta valley with 24000m ascent, and with a time limit of 150hrs, which will be the big running goal for the year as long as work fits around it.. Part of the plan is also to do a solo run round the Grand Combin on the trail of the same name, probably whilst Helen is at work at some point – its a 6 day walk but I reckon a 3 day run would make it a great trip…
The pair I have now are my second pair of these shoes and are doing great, as did the last ones.
As I sit in my trailer in Kazakhstan, somewhere between The Aral Sea and The Caspian, miles from any hills or even slight bumps, I thought it a good time to reflect on what it is that I liek about my shoes and whether there are any things that could be improved on them too.. I have the XT4’s in my bag and am just waiting for the opportunity for a run in the dusty steppe landscape that surounds me. There are apparently wolves here ( saw a paw print of a wild dog / possible wolf just earlier this afternoon) and gofers/marmots and apparently this part of the world has a bit of a reputation for outbreaks of the bubonic plague….Fortunately the weather is getting cold so I reckon the likelihood of outbreaks of any disease is well diminished, and things like ticks, fleas and snakes and other biting creatures are lessened in numbers – hiding in holes etc..
Anyway I digress:-
These shoes look light and feel light at first glance and first touch, and sort of lok like they may well wear out pretty quickly. However from the pounding that they get on a variety of surfaces, and the amount of we, sandy, dusty, rocky terrain they travel through, the appear to be super resilient..
Dont let the bright colours put you off. if they are not your thing, then there is a choice some twin coloured or single coloured. These bright materials are superlight synthetic uppers that seem to drain water out of themselves a treat and dont soak it up. The mud soon covers any visual disturbance and the great fit and feel of the shoes soon washes away any colour issues you may have had
The upside of the super draining materials is that even on a 6 hour run recently, the shoes remained really light feeling and comfortable for the day despite geting soaked through within the first 10 minutes of starting out – I crossed a bog on the way up towards Moel Hebog on a scouting trip along part of the Paddy Buckley Round from Aberglaslyn back to Llanberis.
Time after time, bog after bog the shoes shake off the wet and don’t stretch, so once the laces are adjusted in the first place they don’t need fiddling with to adjust the fit on the shoe as the stretch is totally minimal.
The laces themsleves do take a bit of geting used to – they are fairly old style lace eyelets and require a bit of work to adjust, but once sorted at the start they keep the shoe firmly on the foot and with a reliable pressure..The thin tongue on the shoe obviously saves some weight and despite being skeptical of the lack of padding I m always surprised at the comfort levels of the shoe.
The non stretch uppers also mean that the shoes remain feeling fast , precise and stable all day – The last few weeks have seen a good number of forays onto the hills that re-confirm this, and the XT4’s don’t rol on the ball of the foot when traversing sloping ground.
Some of the superlight and more minimalist aimed shoes have left my feet feeling slightly delicate at the end of a good few hours on the hills. However, time and again, the Adizero XT4 sems to keep my feet feeling good, without any of the bruised feeling that I occasionally get on the balls of my feet with other shoes. After 3.5 hrs on the Moel Hebog/Nantlle section of the Paddy Buckley, and the climb up onto Craig Wen and Yr Aran on the way up Snowdon, my feet felt great as i hit the hard rock steps and trails on Snowdon itself. Through all this the shoes maintain a good ground feel and really grip well on mixed rocky/muddy/ loose stones and grass trails.
I guess the Adiprene and other cushioning materials in the shoe are responsible for this great protection and superb ground feel and I am well happy with the shoes on any terrain for any length of time.
The outer sole has some pretty good lugs poking out of it and my first thoughts of this were that perhaps there are not enough of them ( some of the Inov8 shoes bristle by comparison) and that they may also wear quickly.
In both these cases I have found that the lugs are great and sufficient for sure. They maintain traction at speed and on descents, and the shape of the shoe seems to help one run on the forefoot on descents, particularly improving speed and control, and lessening impact on the legs, despite the minimal heel cushioning.
The sole and upper combination just seems to lend itself to light and faster feeling more effortless descending, allowing great foot placement and encouraging / generating lighter footwork without one thinking about it.. quite impressive for a shoe i think…
The insole of the shoes stays firmly in place too and doesn’t creep towards the front of the shoe, even on steep and wet descents. I have a few pairs of other makes of shoe that have this problem, but not these..
I have a couple of ideas about how to potentially improve / extend the use of the shoes to a wider audience:-
One would be to increase the number of aggressive studs on it to appeal to the super steep and super short genre of fell racers out there for a short blast and who are usually convinced that only their Inov8 Talon shoes will do what they need – If they tried the XT4 as is they would find that the XT4 is great for this as it is but a few more lugs woud tempt them further and also add some grip although this would compromise weight a little.
I personally would love a pair of XT4 style adidas shoes with a flatter sole, with a lower profile tread for the more buffed trail days out or when there is more of a road and trail mixture, I think this would complement the XT4’s I currently have , extending the life of them and giving an option in the shoe range tht would be more of competitor to the likes of the Salomon Sense… I know my shoes feel great on the roads but I am sure they will wear faster with some extended road running miles in them that one needs when getting to the climbs out of the pass and in other valleys that necessitate tarmac miles
All in all I am well happy with theAdidas Adizero XT4 shoes and will be having a few more pairs I am sure, they really are great…. I wonder if Adidas can improve on such a brilliant shoe still further?
These are going to remin my favourite shoe for my longer mountain days and for Paddy Buckley Route scouting trips where I need to be on my feet for 6 hrs plus at a time… They are definitely going to be my choice for a PBR attempt when I can get it sorted, and also for some of the long things that I have planned for 2014…
First things first though, I need to get some speed sessions and a few flat runs in, here in Kazakhstan….
I havee beeen rather slack with keeping on top of the blog for the last couple of weeks but I have been up to all sorts locally (North Wales) so I shall recap below:-
At the end of October I ran the Snowdonia Marathon, unfortunately I had left it too late to enter myself but my mate Anthony had an entry and couldn’t run so I stepped iin and ran under his name… A bit naughty I know but I just had to be a part of the event seeing as how I was in the village at the time and its a home race.
With plenty of long mountain running and just a small amount of sprinty work, I knew I was lacking on the tempo run training department. Last timee I ran it, I hhad done a lot of 4.5minute to 5 minute km long run training to get used to sustained effort, and managed 3hrs 26 finishing time… This time I managed 3hrs 27minuttes and was well pleased, I stopped at aid stations to drink and recover each time so must have run generally a bit quicker than last time, even though I was slower on the ascent of the Llanberis Pass due to wind and a hheadwind doown the Gwynant.. So even tho’ I was a minute slower, well pleased with my result and generally swift recovery afterwards..
Afteer the marathonn, I ran a 95km week all told, with Eilio horseshoe , a few laps of the lake and a couple of hits going up from the slate museum to the surge pool directly.
Adding onto that some good bikinng trips, both road and mountain and it was a good 10 days for exercise..
The mountainns have been wet and windy, my legs have been alternatively sluggish and very peppy. My energy levels have been a bit haywire too, post marathon recovery issues I suspect… A few days back I woke up with such heavy legs and energy failure that I did nothhing for 2 days physically speaking, and this as ever rechrged my batteries. It has become a common feature and can happen any time, almost irrespecttiive oof whether or not I have done a lot or a little in the preceding weeks. It only occurs every couple of months and so it is a useful recovery….
Earlier this week I headed late uup onto Snowdon and then down over Moel CYnghorion. As evr my legs felt empty on the way up the Llanberis path. I find this ascent so difficult as it should be so runnable, but always takes lomger than I think it ought… Tired legs or not warmed up properly who kknow’s… The legs were great however heading down the Snowdon Ranger patth and up Cynghorion and I knoocked a minute off my previous best time to the top.
With the clouds boiling around below me and snow on the ground on top, the trip out was great and I raced the darkness back into the village ( Ihad a head torch but I din’t want to stop to get it out. A great 2hrs 20 mins spin out…
This was our 2nd stop on our Italian Alps trip, having decided that due to low cloud and chillyness we needed a change of scene from Ponte Di Legno in Lombardia.
Travelling through Bormio and up onto the Passo Di Stelvio, one cannot help but feel totally inspired, with such trail running potential and great biking, both road and mountain… The mountains are stunning, and of course combined with great food, one cannot fail to be inspired and energised…
The North side where we were to stay is old Austro-Hungarian territory, now Italy and has a mix of Italian and German/Austrian cooking.
After crossing the pass, including an overheating van and a great temperature inversion we descended the 48 hairpins from 2750m down to Stelvio village and booked into a small hotel for a change….
The next week, apart from a van breakdown recovery thing, was characterised by amazing road biking and mountain biking with Helen in the mornings and fantastic mountain running in the afternoons, with a general aim of getting around 1000m of vertical into my legs wherever possible.
So many trails and so many varieties of surface, from buffed single track, grassy meadows, old cart tracks and rocky technical trails, the place is another mecca for encouraging one up into the mountains again and again..
The mountains energise me, I feel like I draw strength from them and some how tiredness doesn’t seem to feature.
Perhaps the amazing road bike rides, including the STelvio pass and its 48 hairpins, with 1600m of ascent stretch my legs and dissipate the running tightness, but I found myself repeatedly rearing to go… On a couple of occasoins that the weather was poor or time was running low, I did a 10 x 30 second sprint interval session to try and maintain my leg turnover, in the face of all the steady steep climbing.
The long steep and fast descents have hopefully conditioned my Quads too, as they were constantly battered. I tried to interval some of the descents rather than run steady, to maximise the benefits, and on top of the Swiss leg of my trip, before I met up with Helen, I think my quads got into good shape too.
We also spent a day up high walking, where I scampered briefly along another fine ridge from Pic Chavalatsch, see the above picture, great views and also another insight into the network of high level paths up here that beg to be run across. Fells like you are on top of Europe, just brilliant. My Odlo clothing, mt Better than Naked North Face Shorts, The Adidas Adizero XT4’s and The North Face Trail Guide running shoes were all brilliant and reviews will follow….
Here we go, not running but hey it was great…
I was lucky to have seized the opportunity yesterday to get up high as today the snow is down to under 2000m again and its super rainy….
By the way the shoes of choice today were my North Face Ultra Guides, very comfortable and great grip althou a couplle of times I felt as tho I would have preferred a tiny bit more feeling of my foot locked into place that I get with the Adizero shoes. (V12 have these in stock as well as the TNF Hayasa, and the Adidas Adizero XT4)
The Ultra guides tho are a great long day out trail shoe and are wearing well…
Here is a selection of pics from the day out – exciting and awe inspiring and just great to move so easily in the mountains..
La Gouille at 1834 metres is a fine start followed by steep steep climbing upto 2700metres, where the angle backs off a little as you head up glacial moraine towards 3143 metres and Col de Darbonniere, where you would turn left and put on crampons to go across towards La Vuasson.
The ridge ahead was snowed on one side and clear the other and was alternately rounded and rough requiring some careful footing due to snowy patches and the everpresent glacier de la Vuasson to the left and scree cliffs down to the right
I made it to the top 2hrs 15 minutes after leaving the valley bottom and was well pleased, as I took it pretty carefully on the last 300m climb due to steepness.
Having just run and extra 300m ascent, I took the opportunity of icing legs in the lake, to the stares of myriad children and people, then headed to a small Buvetter for a fine Tarte aux Myrtilles ( no one had any soup today):-
Cloud low, rain rattling on the roof of the tent as I sit wrapped in compression gear and thermals.
I have aching quads ( the long descents ) but the r est of me feels fine apart from the creeping damp chill. I just spotted a rivulet of water creeping across the inside of the tent floor so that was a timely reminder to re-organise the layout and stash stuff that can be stashed. Much better living space now and clearer, apart from the bogging wet mountain bike clothing…
Headed off for a fine ride between rain showers, heading off up the Arolla road into the mist before breakig back right in the direction of Lac Arbey, a small hamlet high above Evolene. The track/singletrack across the hillside here is fantastic – Uber exposed , technical and rolling with a bit of a nasty wooden bridge /step shocker before the track opens out towards Arbey. Too wet to attempt the wooden bridge step thing, no railings and super slippy with a pokey drop…..
In the now heavy rain I opted for a route I haven’t followed before signed for col dela meina and vuasson, through the trees ( Advice – don’t follow this route this way round – better to reverse it – If you want to head towards La Meina etc, then take the dirt road just above the lake and save yourself a lot of pushing, slipping, and bruised shins….)
As soon as I could I cut back on atraail marked for Arbey ( about 35minutes later) and this was the aforementioned sensible option for upwards progress followed down hill this time.
In torrential rain the descent to Evolene is awesome, I rode it clean 3 years ago in the drybut this time I had to get off for 3 secctions and went over the handlebars once.
The whole area is criss crossed with amazing mountain bike opportunities, each one a gold mine of technical fun, even in the rain!!
Evolene even has its own Raid Evolenard - a big route in the valley also done as a race once per year…Thirs only hints at the scope for mtb in the valley and once you have ridden here – far from the madding crowds, you will want to come back for sure…
So a good 2.5 hrs out and about on my bike, bogging wet and now trying to dry out and warm up. Another run to the top of something planned for tomorrow….
A hard day out today, my quads were still burning from the descent the other day, I think the bike ride yesterday and the Via Ferrata helped a little to move some lactic…..
Set off early morning from around 1600m below Arolla and followed a route that Helen, Bella and I went up a few years back, beautiful ascent in stunning scenery, blue sky, low wind speed and crystal clear…Marmottes singing in the background as I remember Bella being obsessed by these cute creatures last time we were here…..
At the final turning for the hut I headed right towards Mont Vuasson, until the final col then a cool , airy and semi snowy ridge run/scramble leads to a steep shale peak and onto a very narrow ridge with big drops to either side and the summit of L’Etoile. 2hrs 50 minutes after leaving the van I made it, before heading back down towards the hut again and detoring via the beautiful track that leads from the Aiguilles Rouge hut back to Arolla. I eventually arrived back at the road and foolishly took a turning that ked right back up to Laac Bleu, another 300m ish above the van!! Still it was extra height gain and the trails are just awesome…
Mont L’etoile is at 3370 metres, and the views were stunning!
Pictures will be uploaded soon. – ie tomorrow – it will be a rest day with some mountain biking in the valley to recover my quads! Plus the forecast is a bit iffy so better stay low ish and hit the tech trails for mtb round here.