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  • Writer's pictureMichael Van Elsberg

Radical Change: 100-Days of Total Commitment

Updated: Sep 17, 2022

Today is the last official day of a nearly 15-year job and 10-year position (I've technically been on "vacation" for the last two weeks) and Sunday I'm leaving the country for over four months. If you been reading our blogs, you know we like to say, "Do hard things." With a little over 100 days left before the Hong Kong Four Trails Ultra Challenge (HK4TUC), I am committing myself 100% to making radical change. After four years of gradual improvement to get to a high base-level of fitness, it is time to dial it up, and go all-in, head-first.

I am calling my leave of absence from work a "Sabbatical," but in truth I am now unemployed, and with no guarantee of returning. And when asked the question about why I am doing this, I say "to improve myself." Which is essentially the same answer I have been using when asked why I am trying to complete the HK4TUC in under 60-72 hours. To get me off the couch. To improve myself. Because it is hard.

Over the last four years I have built a gym in my garage, and walked, hiked and run 1000's of miles in preparation for the HK4TUC. But in order to increase my chance of success, I am going to focus solely on my training (and blogging about it) for the next 100 days. In order to get into Hong Kong I have to spent three weeks in Canada first. My first goal when I get there is to do stairs and hill-repeats. I will be doing as much of that as possible before I leave for Hong Kong because I will have to quarantine there first for 14-days upon arrival. And, although I have arranged to have a treadmill in my room, I will lose some level of fitness during that time.

Once I am out of quarantine, I have a sub-20 hour, 100-kilometer run on the MacLehose trail to look forward to--and as many repeats on each of the four trails, as possible, before the first three days of Chinese New Year, beginning on February 1st for the HK4TUC. The idea is to get used to the elevation and the distance and the actual trails themselves (and learn them well enough not to get lost during the challenge).

This is also a test: to see if the four years of hard work have got me to where I need to be in order to successfully embark on this part of the journey. It is also a test to see if I can apply what we have learned so far (over the last four years) during the next 100 days and to see whether or not what I think I have learned really works. Of course, much of that success will also be determined by will. Finally, it is a test to see how much further improvement I can make, especially over the last one-year of training.

A year ago, for example, I made note of my weight and body-fat percentage with the goal of reducing both in order to also improve my fitness (lower weight corresponds to V02 max) and I have, in fact, lowered both (weight and percent body fat that is). But it was harder than I thought, and improving it further will be even harder. I have three specific goals to reach before the first day of the challenge: one is to be at or below 145lbs (I am at 146 today), below 11% bodyfat (12.8 now), and to substantially improve my V02 max (from 43 now) to 52 or higher, which will probably be the hardest thing that I have ever done. My current number is already considered excellent and puts me in the top 10% of my age and gender, but my goal will put me in the top one percent, and that kind of improvement is extremely rare, especially if you have already been training regularly.

Above and below are recent pictures and stats from training, including some that show the trend over the last year--and the cake they got me at work to send me off.

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