Friday, October 28, 2016

Hike Up Mount Hallasan.

Hey readers - a couple mornings ago I decided to hike up Mount Hallasan . It had been on my "to do's list" ever since I came here to Jeju-do in mid-May .


It's actually the highest peak in South Korea , standing at 1950 m or 6400 ft AMSL . In fact , North Korea has a higher peak , called Paektu Mountain , standing at 2744 m or 9003 ft AMSL .

Hallasan really stands out in Jeju-do . It's basically the center of the island and everything else revolves around it . It's considered to be a shield volcano and is believed to have had it's last major eruption ~5000 years ago , which puts it's still in an "active" classification .


Now that I have some time to myself and the energy to spend elsewhere , I waited for a clear morning and rode my scooter up to the entrance of the Seongpanak national park , where I would start the ~18 KM round trip hike just after 8 AM .

There are several routes up the mountain , but not all of them go to the very peak .


It's important to start before 12h30 or you will not be allowed to start .


 For the better part , especially the start of the trail , it looked like this .


This was the 2nd of two shelters where you can stop , hang out and go to the bathroom .


More cut off times .


The higher the trail goes , the steeper and rockier it got .

*This is not my picture*
A view of the file my Garmin recorded - I reached my goal of going "sub 4" for the round trip . But it looks like some lapses in recording occurred , possibly due to the thick overhead canopy .


It did get pretty crowded in some sections.  Particularly when there were groups of tourist , most of which were locals . I could not help but find it strange , that so many hiked clutching their mobile phones . At least put in your pocket , for better balance and greater forward motion . Then just take it out for pictures .

*Not my picture*
In hindsight , I should have started earlier , to avoid the crowds as I overtook a few 100 people on the narrow trails .


By the cusp of the cone - the sun was nice and strong , with a bit of wind that made it chilly since I had a good sweat going .



                                                        Some editing work done here .



A panoramic shot .


White and fluffy clouds .


 Taking a moment to enjoy the fresh air .


A view of Jeju City - it was too cloudy on the other side to get a good shot of Seoqwipo .


Another panoramic shot but from the other side .


 A candid shot my GoPro snapped while on auto-pic .


It was indeed a challenging climb , more energy consuming, longer and significantly more technical than The Great Wall Of China last week . But fairly feasible as compared to my climb up Mount Kilimanjaro in 2007 .

The way back down was a little more strenuous than going back up . It required more focus and agility . It was a combination of the up flow of people who I had overtaken on the way up and having to choose my footing more carefully . The rocky sections seemed to be a little more wet/slippery than going up .

In the end , I ran a little for the last half hour, as the path was clear , the terrain was suitable and I was keen to finish it off under 4 hours .

I rewarded myself with a bottle of Coca-Cola at the bottom , and the next morning , I woke up knowing it was a good idea , not to do this hike while in training mode , because my achilles , arch , and calves , were really sore/stiff - which will be the case for a few more days .

Friday, October 21, 2016

Ironman Hefei 70.3 Race Report, Forbidden City & The Great Wall with lots of Pictures!

Hey readers – this past weekend I raced the inaugural Ironman Hefei 70.3 in the People’s Republic of China. I was pretty excited to join this event, as it was the first triathlon organized by the Wanda group, who bought the Ironman brand last year. The venue was in a “Wanda City” which was nothing short of impressive, with huge buildings, a futuristic feel and pretty much the best infrastructure I have ever experienced!

I may have been one of the few, who was doing his 4th Ironman branded event in China. The first 3 being on Hainan Island in 2008 – 2009 – 2010. This time around, it was a totally different experience. This also happened to be my 5th triathlon event in China!

Anyway, this was my first half ironman distance in almost 3 years. I was confident, but still a bit anxious about how everything would turn out. I've had some good, but inconsistent training in the past months. September was pretty busy on Jeju Island with lots of coaching hours, on deck, on track and online. I managed to cram in some good key sessions, in early October. Apart from being a little tired, I felt ready!

After spending 1 night in Beijing and swimming at the Olympic Water Cube to break up the travel.

This is the competition pool, which is just for show - I swam in the training pool, which is accessible to the public, but not as nice.

I then flew into Hefei late Friday night.

The Skyline in Hefei.

Location on the map.


Interesting rice sandwich given out on my flight.

Some red rice.

Cosmetically appealing and tasted okay, just not fresh!

With a vegetable omelet in the middle!



Once I arrived at my hotel, I was told the hotel was “full”!?!?!?!?

I showed them my bookings.com confirmation. They then told me that they do not accept foreign guest. This, at 11h30 PM night time!

I know from experience, some hotels in China do not have a license to accommodate foreign guests. But, that is usually clearly written on the web page. In this case, it was not. And considering I booked this hotel weeks before my arrival date, they could have informed me or bookings.com of this. Considering my name and account information, it should be obvious that I am not a Chinese national.

The door man escorted me to a couple hotels nearby that might accept foreign guests. All told me they are full. So by this time, it was almost 1 AM. I was able to think quickly and get one of the hotel workers to call the Wanda Vista hotel, the main race hotel. Good thing they had an available room for 3 nights, but at a 5-star price…by this time, I did not care. So after getting a late night taxi, I was able to get to bed after 2 AM.

This, all done with very few English words spoken!

Saturday, I went through my usual pre-race routine. Caught up with a few old friends, made some new friends and enjoyed the 5-star hotel as much as I could!

Getting the last one!

Me and Andy actually also swam here @ 4 AM on race morning, because it was so nice and we knew we would not be able to warm up in the lake on race morning.


A bit smoggy...

The compulsory wefie ;)

Come race day, there was lots of energy in the air. The organizers had left no stone un-turned. There were lots of competitive athletes, who flew from far and wide, to hunt the 40 Kona slots. But the majority of the participants were Chinese!

The swim start was my first “rolling start” which I found to be very easy,safe and simple. Apart from a dozen jokers who seeded themselves at the front, it was all good. In fact, I started in the same row as Andy. Within 500m I had swam up to the front and decided to simply sit on the back of a Russian athlete who was swimming strong but in a bit of zig zags. I just focused on my breathing and staying relaxed. Eventually, with 200m to go, some guy came from the back and just motored by us, recording the 2nd fastest overall swim, including the pro’s!




What my watch claims that we swam!


After a quick transition, I got on onto the 90 KM bike leg. I focused on riding steadily and conservatively. My bike training is what’s been the most compromised in the past 3 years. I got passed a few times in first 40 KM. I also couldn’t feel but a bit “under-equipped” on a road bike, with drop bars and a road helmet. As opposed to a TT bike, with a disk wheel and aero helmet, which seemed the norm at the front of the race. The course was great, FULLY closed to traffic, thousands of volunteers and smooth 4 lane roads on both sides!

Out of T1.

In no mans land for first 40 KM.


And then it happened, a group of 10 guys riding tightly together came by flying. I saw that a few of them were in my age group. I let my ego get the best of me and got on the back. I dangled behind, trying to stay within legal distance, but the changes in guys at the front, going through aid stations, taking corners and going up slight uphill’s, all created compression in the accordion effect.

What I saw during that section, was pretty unreal. Guys un-clipping and shaking out their legs, just like roadies in a bike race. Lots of freewheeling, random littering and constant looking behind for the draft marshal. For the record, a few age group winners and KQ'ers came from this group. The flags and names on the bibs make is easy to remember.

Eventually, a draft marshal came from behind on the back of a motorcycle. Gave me a blue card, which is a 5 min penalty. I was relieved that 2 others in the group also received penalties. In my opinion, everybody should have gotten a penalty!

I put myself in a bad and risky situation. I was caught, I did not argue (one guy did talk back and even tried to get away with a yellow card - bad mistake!) and served my time quietly, while drinking from my bottles, fueling on my gels and stretching my legs/back.

Standing at the penalty tent, at the 60 KM point, I saw a few other groups pass by who were riding too close together. Then once back on the road, I was gradually passed by a few other groups doing a similar thing. But I just let them ride by...Risking a 2nd penalty would really make me look bad, no matter how I swing or rationalize it.
A clear increase in speed in the middle 20 KM - I accidentally pressed the "transition" button going into the penalty tent, so this is only a graph of the first 60 KM.
Once into T2, I had mixed feelings. I felt a Kona slot was out of reach, but I still knew that the right thing to do, was to give it my all out on the run course, for every step of the 21 KM run.


Heading into T2.

 Funny thing is, when I entered the transition tent, there was about a dozen guys sitting there, looking spent, slowly putting on their socks and shoes. This encouraged me. I hauled into the run course in a hurry and started passing guys right away. There was a long line in front of me, for many KM’s. I maintained a solid tempo, but by 5 KM I got a bad side stitch. This, which ruined a lot of my runs during my junior days. In fact, this  spot was still sore for a few days after the race.




I was able to shake it off by running slower and breathing deeply. Then I got going again. I ran strongly again for the middle 10 KM.


My speed for the final 30 KM of the bike and whole run.

My RPM and SPM for the last 30 KM of the bike and whole run.

Then at the final turn around, about 6 KM from the finish, my left knee started to “bite” – this was the first time in years that my left knee was hurting. I had an injury there in 2009. I slowed down a bit, shorten up my stride more. At this point, I was not sure if it was worth pushing through towards the finish. But I still had energy left, so I plowed through the pain and gave it my all to the finish line!

After seeing the official results, there was some mixed feelings. My athlete Andy had gotten 2nd in his age group, with a solid new PR and a Kona slot. I came in 8th in my age group, so I knew the chances of me getting a roll down slot were slim.

My battered feet post race - yes no socks!

A view of the overall speed and elevation of the whole course.
I went to the roll down anyway, I was surprised and excited to hear my name called out. The announcer, like many mortals, muffled my name real well, so it took a couple times saying my name, for it to register and me to say “HEY I THINK THAT’S ME” funny enough, it seems like I got the only “roll down” slot. All the others were taken swiftly!


Proud to be involved in 3 Kona qualifications in 2 weeks!

Anyway, all in all, the mission was accomplished. I learned a lot with the drafting penalty, and I managed to overcome a handful of minor obstacles. All the while staying true to what I preach, to give it your all to the finish line regardless of your position!

I think there’s more to be done for the drafting situation. The draft marshals should be more present on the bike course and follow the lead packs of age groupers from the start, don’t let them get too bunched up and break them up sooner.

The day after the race, I returned to Beijing.

A well organized "some pit" for the puffers.

Very modern airport in the province!

Great architecture.

It's like being in the future!

Free water for all, hot or cold do you want?

A nice sunset from the plane, with some smug bellow...

Once in Beijing, I got the chance to do and see more than last time. Below are some pictures with some random comments!

Walking around town.


Often colorful and organized!


Wide roads and some smog...

A massive power like holder!

The weather is getting cold, these integrated hand mittens seem like they reduced wind resistance!
On Tuesday I went to the famous Forbidden City for a quick tour! 

3/4 panoramic view.

The entrance - it was packed!

The entrance from the top.
Most of the tourist were in fact, Chinese.

Lots of decorations.

And people taking selfies.

Gates all over.


Very authentic and traditional.

More selfie sticks...


A view from the top.

An interesting map with old trade roads to give a visual on the history.

Always cool structures.

With lots of in-house rivers.

And multiple bridges.

Consistent refurbishing going on.

A view of the exit gate.

Some strong local liquor - I saw some at 56% but I'm not that hardcore!

Then on Wednesday, I booked a tour to The Great Wall of China, for the Mutianyu section. There are a few sections to see, this one if the closest to Beijing. Apart from some fog, it was a great experience!

Cattle crossing ;)

A map of the area I will conquer.


What my Garmin recorded - only the way back down.

Pretty steep elevation!
More colorful flowers.

A bit of information.


Rules.

The only downside was the smog...

A beautiful yet challenging walk!

Gotta take a selfie eh!

Going UP!

The old lady insisted on my doing this ;)

Always been a bit of rebel ;)

It just keeps going,

More autumn colors.

As high as I could go today.

Challenging and a bit dangerous...

Not for everybody.

Going down.


Was equally challenging!


Candid shot of a baby crawling up the stairs!


Rewarded myself with a local beer ;)

Honestly, doing 1 race in China and spending a few days exploring after is just not enough. You need to join a few of these races to make it worth it and really discover more of this mystical and fascinating country!