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  • Writer's pictureChris Toepker

Matching MacLehose

Breaking Impossible's first time together on "The Mac"

The Hong Kong Four Trails Ultra Challenge (#hk4tuc) starts on the 100km MacLehose trail. It is the longest section, and is the first cut off. It must be completed in less than 18 hours. In addition to the length, it has a very challenging elevation profile. So, naturally, we have been spending some time to find a reasonable proxy!

Here's a quick summary of distance, elevation and sections of the trail. "Normally," the trail is is travelled left to right, that is from east to west, from Pak Tam Chung to Tuen Mun town. However, the HK4TUC reverses things, so the image is read right to left. Notice the picture above says "end point" on the sign? We're in Tuen Mun, just about to get started!

So, Runners hit the peaks like this...

Mt. Tai Mo (957m, 3,140 ft),

Beacon Hill (457m, 1,499ft)

Ma On Shan (702m, 2,303ft).

Coaches like Jason Koop advise taking advantage of specificity of training, both finding similar routes and calculating the average change in elevation, and training them as best you can. So, our first step has been to measure local trails by that metric, plus ease of access.

After all, if we can't easily get to it, we won't train on it! As fate would have it, right in our own "Big Back Yard" of state, county and city parks, we have the "Issaquah Alps!"

Tiger Mountain (916m, 3,004ft),

Squak Mountain ( 618m, 2028 ft)

Cougar Mountain (492m ,1,614ft)

They're not perfect proxies, but they're a good start! So we began running them and testing ourselves. The first test outing started in Preston, to mimic the run from Tuen Mun town, which as you can see from the MacLehose profile above, is relatively flat. Still, it looks like we'll have to start further out to get the 15km (9 miles) before hitting the steep climb. And what a steep climb Tiger provides.

The route takes the Issaquah-Preston rail-grade trail, to High Point Trailhead then the Cable Line trail, where it basically goes straight up to West Tiger #3 peak (769m, 2,526 ft), then on to West Tiger #2 peak (840m, 2,759 ft), then down around the south and west sides to Issaquah.

Where Mt. Tai Mo takes about 15km to climb 957m, Tiger mountain takes just 3.2km to climb 840m. This may seem to overdo it on climbing, but one of the things runners of the HK4TUC note is the seemingly endless stairs, so we'll take the challenge. Seems like preparation, no?! We'll have to take it further in the future. This outing didn't go to West Tiger #1 peak (890m, 2,923 ft), and that'll be a must next time.

Sure, some successful survivors and finishers have trained simply running flats, or even on tracks or circuits around their workplaces. However, they're generally younger than us and can afford to wing it. We tend to look to a challenge, prepare and thereby decrease surprises.

Indeed, I'm inspired by a buddy's story from training for his Infantryman1st class, where they had to run a long distance, then disassemble and reassemble their rifle and hit a target, all within a certain amount of time. A real trouble in completing the test is that when you're done running, your hands are usually swollen, and you fumble around a lot. The pearl of wisdom he passed to me? "Well, of course, you just train to run a little faster, which earns you time to cool down and stop fumbling!"

We take preparation seriously enough to create films of the routes, to review and get familiar with. Take advantage for your own prep! Here's that three-hour test run boiled down to just 40 mins.

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