Three months ago, the thought of running seemed like a distant dream. The pain in my knee was a constant reminder of my limitations. Yet, with the support from Balance Wellness and the owner Esther Fok and the magic of her Vasper machine, the expertise of Fleur Denis Osteopathy, and the skilled hands of Stephen Kirwin - Hong Kong's best deep tissue masseur, along with the guidance of Catriona Low for strengthening and flexibility, I found my way back to running. It was a collective effort, and I am immensely grateful to each person who played a role in getting me to the starting line of the Translantau BY UTMB 100KM.
Out of the blue, I had a last-minute opportunity to join a race, thanks to Kairan Lu. This unexpected chance propelled me to set my sights on a goal – the Translantau By UTMB 100km. As the next couple of months unfolded, I upped mileage in my training runs and then with three intense weeks dedicated to serious elevation workouts, race day approached. I found myself at the starting line, well-prepared and in good form, ready to take on the challenging Translantau course.
The energy at the start line was nothing short of electrifying. Reconnecting with familiar faces, especially Kash Lam, with whom I would start and finish the race, added a layer of camaraderie to the event. The night's rain left the atmosphere charged, and as we began under overcast skies, the anticipation of this 100km race, boasting nearly 5000m in elevation, hung in the air. Elite runners from Hong Kong, China, and around the world gathered, creating a palpable sense of competition and excitement on the Lantau trails.
As the countdown reverberated and drums set the rhythm, our journey began. The initial sprint through Mui Wo and onto the trails pushed the pace faster than was good for me. A timely encounter with the seasoned Julien Bonnard at the first checkpoint prompted a crucial slowdown, and I heeded his advice. Shifting my focus to efficient running and conserving energy, the contour trail around Sunset Peak offered breathtaking views, but the ascent to Lantau Peak at 934m posed a formidable challenge. The humidity drained my strength, I had no power, and the first signs of leg cramps emerged, a concerning preview of the challenges ahead.
Fortunately, two strangers at the summit provided a lifeline with a bottle of iced water – a moment of gratitude that defined the race. Though unknown to me, their gesture was priceless and one that really helped me on my way. The descent from Lantau Peak to the Big Buddha checkpoint, though slippery, became more bearable with the iced cold refreshing water. The infectious energy of cubs at the checkpoint, assisting runners with food and water, boosted my spirits, and I felt the fun returning. However, a recurring concern surfaced about the race's food quality, particularly for vegans. It was consistent issue, prompting me to rely on bananas and my own gels instead of food at the checkpoints for sustenance. Novy meeting me at the 60km mark became the focus as i knew i would have some good food, yet the need for race organizers to improve the food situation echoed strongly – a sentiment shared by many participants.
Leaving the Big Buddha checkpoint, my spirits lifted, but navigating the country park introduced new challenges with steep, tough climbs. Despite the cramps persisting, encounters with familiar faces like Katrina Hamlin, Ben Sweet, and Tom Robson from the LBC running club offered encouragement amid a stark contrast to my physical state. On the final climb in the Countypark, the cramps hit me, and I came to a stop unable to move as the cruciating pain in my leg muscles debilitated me. Luckily I had some magnesium saches which I took and a fellow runner passing by advised me to keep moving which proved crucial as the cramps gradually subsided, and the descent down the steep hill into Tai O showcased newfound strength in my legs, reigniting my spirits.
Approaching Tai O at the 40km mark, the support from Nikki Han and Kelly Scott Morris injected a much-needed boost. Nikki forced me to eat the Congee and this worked a treat in building up my energy. Tai O, with its ancient stilted town on water, offered a picturesque backdrop as I started to find my rhythm.
I ended up running alongside a fellow runner from Shanghai, "Kevin," and for the next 15km, we provided mutual support. The terrain was relatively flat, allowing us to chat and swap stories as we pushed our way forward. My legs slowly flowed better and better.
The real challenge came when we reached the rescue trail—a steep path beneath the cable car to Big Buddha. As darkness fell, the mist rolled in, reducing visibility to near zero. Now part of a group of four, we navigated the silent paths cautiously, mindful of the perilous wooden flooring. Step by step, we ascended, reaching the summit and Iet out a massive shout that made the others jump. With this triumphant cheer came a surge of energy and knowing my wife Novy awaited at the next checkpoint I set off running with so much energy.
The descent that followed was an exhilarating rush through misty trails, overtaking fellow runners along the way. I felt like I was gliding, reminded why I love trail running so much. Arriving at the checkpoint, I was greeted by Novy's smiling face and "Sherpa" Dan. A swift pit stop, a change of water, indulging in Novy's delicious food, and a refreshing soda water and Lucozade. A quick kiss from novy and with renewed strength and excitement, I plunged back into the darkness, ready to conquer the remaining 40km.
The path to Shek Pik Reservoir posed a challenging descent, particularly in the dark and mist. Navigating carefully, I caught up with and passed several runners. Eventually, I found myself in sync with three others, and together we made our way to the next checkpoint in Shu Hui. There, Christine Wu efficiently helped me replenish my water, and in no time, I was back on the trail, overtaking more competitors at the checkpoint.
A strategic decision to eat while walking along the catchwater proved beneficial, providing a much-needed energy boost for the demanding climb that followed. The ascent from the catchwater to Pak Mon Hau was undeniably grueling, feeling like it would never end. However, by persistently taking one step at a time, I made it as is always the case. The subsequent forest path in the mist was a welcome relief, and I assisted a fellow female runner who had become disoriented.
My approach of minimizing stoppages at checkpoints paid dividends, allowing me to steadily pass other participants. The final climb at Tung Chung marked the concluding major ascent. Despite the foggy conditions and huge steps that disappeared into the mist the climb although tough and slow felt okay, I felt strong and never felt like stopping, in fact, other athletes slowed me down.
On Reaching the top of this trail I knew that all the climbing had come to an end, well anything that was hard and now was plain sailing down to the next checkpoint in Pak Mong.
The fog was unbelievable and so hard to see but my knowledge of this trail helped no end as I passed many runners fighting to find their way. I caught up with another runner for the steep descend into Pak Mong and together we navigated this tricky path down.
Checking my water I realised that I still had ¾ of a bottle left and I made the decision to pass the check point without stopping and headed up The Olympic trail, not a personal favorite, but this time determined to crush it, glancing at my watch I see that beating the 18-hour mark is in my sights, the sound of poles behind me added motivation and then seeing Dolly in the mist shouting encouragement pushed me on.
Despite the difficulty, the finish line drew near, and running through familiar territory in the early hours was a surreal experience. The cheers from BBQ enthusiasts at 2 am added an unexpected touch to the finish.
Crossing the finish line at 17.48hrs, very happy especially considering the race and the toughness of the course and the humidity and foggy conditions. Placing 28th and securing 3rd in my category (50-54 years), made even more special by finishing alongside Kash Lam and with the very funny Kelly on hand.
What a fantastic experience…my first ever 100km ultra race … one I will never forget!
My gear, borrowed and adapted due to lost luggage, played a crucial role. From the impeccable Topo Mnt Racer 3 shoes from Lantau Base Camp to the inexpensive but brilliant Decathlon running socks, that I always wear and have never had blisters and T8 gear, which include my beautiful bright pink shorts, inners and Run for Freedom T-Shirt each element contributed to a comfortable and chafe-free run.
Special thanks to:
Despite the fatigue settling into my legs, my knee and ankle held strong just showing the success of the meticulous training and preparation I put in prior to the race. As I reflect on this race report, the memories of misty trails, supportive faces, and personal victories linger, making this Translantau BY UTMB 100KM an unforgettable chapter in my running journey. A heartfelt thank you to all the incredible individuals who made this challenging yet rewarding experience possible. The volunteers, sacrificing their time, and the organizers deserve immense gratitude for creating a platform for such remarkable achievements.
Jo Lodder and Novy are a dynamic duo, each with their own remarkable contributions to the world. Jo is a trail runner, business leader, and philanthropist, known for his trailblazing spirit. He is the co-founder of JNW Asia, a prominent property marketing company based in Hong Kong that specializes in Niseko projects with as part of their portfolio. However, what truly sets him apart is his unique achievement: being the first person in history to conquer the HK5Trails in Hong Kong while championing the 'Run for Freedom' challenge to raise funds for charity.
Novy, on the other hand, is a culinary virtuoso with a passion for traditional Indonesian cuisine. As a private chef, she runs Novy's Kitchen (novyskitchen.com), where she brings the authentic flavours of Indonesia to the world. Her culinary expertise adds a unique and delightful dimension to their journey, combining adventure and entrepreneurship with the rich tapestry of Indonesian gastronomy. Together, Jo and Novy share a profound commitment to helping others and a relentless drive for success, inspiring everyone they encounter through their love of adventure and their culinary creations."
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