An Ultra Distance Race, an Antibody test, worshipping mice and more chili!
Day 2,941 since October 10th 2013: 194 countries out of 203. No flight, no return home, min 24 hrs in each country and 1 pandemic!
(The opinions expressed on this site are my own, and do not reflect the position or policies of the Danish Red Cross which I represent as a Goodwill Ambassador).
“be patient” they say
There’s a joke which goes like this: “Someday, future archeologists are going to dig up Disney World and think it was some bizarre mouse-worshipping kingdom”
Last week’s entry: How we’ll (possibly) reach Palau without flying (from Hong Kong)
This should make for an interesting entry! Let’s kick off with where we are in relation to reaching Palau anytime soon: I don’t know!! It is completely out of my hands. But I am very happy that we have the support of Palau’s Presidency. The legal department has been kind and forthcoming. It has taken several months to come this far and there is still more red tape to cut. On top of that, Palau is an island nation in the Pacific Ocean which means that things take time. They are on island time. Island time is that pleasant part of visiting a beautiful warm island with palm trees and pristine beaches. Everything slows down. A quality which is sought for on a holiday and frustrating when you need to accomplish something. “Time is plentiful. Why are you stressing? Relax and enjoy the sun”. Sort of the polar opposite of how most of us view Germany: precision, accuracy, efficiency. Generalizing helps us understand the world but it doesn’t give us an accurate description of any one country. You will find impressive efficiency in Palau and good relaxing times in Germany. All I’m saying is that if you needed someone to draft and sign a letter, then chances are that it would take days in the northern part of Europe and weeks on a paradise island. As far as Pacific International Lines (PIL) goes, which is the shipping company that connects Hong Kong with Palau, then we also need to be realistic. Helping a bearded man with a hat reach Palau without flying would not become a first priority for any shipping company during a worldwide pandemic. PIL certainly has at least a hundred more pressing issues to deal with. Having said that, I am also very happy to have the support of PIL. They have helped out three times before and I am confident that if there is a way that they can help out now; then they will. It’s a question of waiting while PIL makes sure that everything is okay with all involved parties: crewing, fleet, agents, authorities etc. And as such we are left to hold our breath. Meanwhile I had a COVID-19 Antibody test done which came back positive (meaning that I am immune) and had an IgG (Immunoglobulin G) of 140.2 (anything above 21.8 counts as positive). I think that’s good? Let’s go :)
After a minute long buildup about why I would move to Iceland, if I could never return to Denmark, I said: "but the best thing about Iceland is..." And then the connection broke. What a cliffhanger for the students in Transylvania in Romania. I love that country. And they were back online in no time to hear the answer! ;)
In the words of Monty Python’s Flying Circus: “and now for something completely different!” This has actually been a good week for me and I have overall felt good. Such weeks have been rare for some time but a lot of good stuff happened this week! Especially if we start the week from last Saturday. I competed in the HK50 Ultra distance Trail Run and became the fastest Dane within the race!!! (also the only Dane). Kidding aside here’s how it went in a detailed breakdown.
Friday evening, I had my own little pasta-party to load up on carbs pre-race. The HK50 is a 50.7km (31.5mi) trail zigzagging across Hong Kong Island. It has an elevation gain of 2.212m (7.257ft) and an elevation loss of 2.400m (7.874ft). It is not to be confused with the Hong Kong Trail although parts of the race follows that trail. It was announced that the cut-off for the race would be 10 hours. A month prior to the race I went through the entire trail together with my friend Anders. It was much warmer and we ended up spending between 10-11 hours…in part as I was less prepared and hit the wall. This time I was better prepared.
Victoria Peak, Saturday, 06:30am
RACE DAY: I got up at 05:00am, had breakfast, left home at 06:00am and reached the starting point at 06:30am. The race began at 07:00am and it was 19C (66.2F) which was a pleasant temperature although it felt very cold in the wind during the half hour wait prior to the start. A week before, temperatures had been above 30C (86F).
We had to wear masks for the first 2 minutes after leaving the starting area.
AND AWAY WE WENT: we had been divided into two groups. I was in the 50km (31mi) group which was setting off first. Behind us the 24km (15mi) group was ready to take off a minute later. Perhaps not the best logistics? It requires a lot less energy to complete 24km and thus the top racers would run faster than group one. And they did!! On a narrow paved trail we were all running shoulder to shoulder when suddenly we heard: “MOVE! MOVE! GET OUT OF THE WAY!!!” Looking at many of the other contenders it was clear that I wasn’t in great shape at all. Many of them looked like Olympic athletes. My stomach had been rumbling since 15 minutes before start. About 2.5km (1.5mi) into the race we approached some public toilets and I made a wise decision to make a quick stop. A few minutes later I was back on the trail and it was no longer crowded.
Checkout the elevation chart!
I would much rather be behind and in a position to overtake people, than in front being overtaken. For me it is a mental thing. If I’m overtaking then I think things are going well. And from my new position within the race I was overtaking a lot of people. There was a great spirit along the race with lots of camaraderie. Super easy to speak to people! And the staff at all checkpoints were in great spirit as well and really friendly.
At one point a hiker shouted out: "hey - aren't you the Red Cross guy?! You're amazing!" And then I heard her say "I follow him on Instagram" :)
As I approached the end of the first half of the race, I was walking up some stairs. Generally, I was running all the flat bits as well as the downward bits. But not uphill. I reached the final step and slowly began running again. At that moment I was speaking to a nice woman from northern UK. We were about 20km (12mi) into the race when I suddenly felt a cramp like jolt within my left calf. It lasted less than two seconds but had me slow down and walk for a bit. The woman from the UK slowed down to see if she should wait for me but I ushered her on. I don’t normally get cramps and certainly not that early. But I took the warning seriously. I had some more water and slowly began to run again. On a downhill stretch I bypassed the British woman who was doing the 24km distance. And I made it to the halfway marker in a new personal record shaving off about 5 minutes from my test run nearly a week before! If you read last weeks entry then you might remember I was proud about my time from the test run and then immediately met two South Africans who had done the same stretch nearly one hour faster! Well, one of those South Africans went on to finish the race as the overall fifth fastest!
There is never a point within these ultra-distances where I do not think to myself: “why the heck am I doing this?!” It always becomes somewhat miserable for me. I envy Salomon athletes like Courtney Dauwalter which seem to enjoy every step. Or my ultra-wifey who completed an entire Iron(wo)man (swimming, cycling and running) with a huge smile on her face all the way. I really don’t enjoy most of it and often within it wish that I hadn’t signed up for it and always look forward to it being over. It could relate to not being quite in good enough shape. It does get somewhat painful along the way and as I reach about 40km (25mi) I also sense that there is very little energy left for running. Within the HK50 I also had the cramp in my left calf to worry about. If I pushed too hard then it would immediately set in. So it was a balance for me.
Finished at last! We're still waiting for our medals?
Throughout the race I never stopped for anything. Well, apart from my short bathroom break in the very beginning. I was constantly running or walking. I did not stop on my way up any mountains to rest and catch my breath. I pushed through. Unlike many competitors I didn’t run with a running backpack. Earlier this year I saw a cool video with Hong Kong’s Wong Ho Chung running 100km (62mi) across several mountains with nothing but a soft flask in his hand. I adopted this practice for trails where I feel confident that I can find plenty of water sources along the way. I have the Salomon Soft Flask XA FILTER 490ml and don’t need to worry about the water source as the filter takes care of that. As such I ran very light only carrying the essentials: soft flask with filter, seven energy gels, two power bars, paper napkins, pain killers, a safety pin, credit cards, cash, ID-card – and that was it.
About 2km (1,24mi) before the finish line I was walking. Not a slow pace walk but certainly not in favor of running. I just wanted it over. Two runners approached me from behind. I knew them as we had been passing each other a number of times along the trail. One of them shouted: “YOU ARE ALMOST THERE!! IT IS TIME TO GIVE IT ALL YOU’VE GOT!!” And then they were past me. I thought to myself: “shut up”. But then it came over me that he was right. I had more juice left and began to run. And as such I ran all the way to the finish line and across it: 7:24:32!!! WOW! :)
The answer is B. I returned home with one unused gel. Good logistics ;)
I am very happy with my time!!! The temperature had increased to 23C (73.4F) by the end so it had been perfect throughout the race. Five degrees more and I could have been an additional hour for me. Temperature means a lot. My twisted ankle from weeks before was at around 80% when I sat out and held up. No rain throughout the day. Good stuff!! To put things in perspective the overall winner was across the finish line in 4:32:48!! My friend Pavel Toropov (Russian based in Shanghai now) ran it in just 4:18:35 back in 2012 and he is an amateur athlete. The South African (Jan) did it in 5:06:02. Professional athletes can likely do it in 4 hours or less. So, I was never competing to win the race. I was competing against myself and I won. On paper I came in as no. 56 overall and no. 16 within my age group. 93 completed the race this year. And that is all I have to say about that.
It was #TimeToPlay during the race. Afterwards it was time to relax with Apocalypse Now.
The Hong Kong Marathon was held the day after HK50. It was a beautiful day for it.
Although I was very tired I headed into town to cheer for Anders (red cap) who was visibly surprised :)
My goodness I love Disney!! Jim Gaffigan is a stand-up comedian who in one of his routines says: “there are adults that go to Disney without children and they are called weirdos. Very nice people – absolutely CRAZY!! Even the Comic-Con people are like: Yeah, they are a little frightening” :) Well, I don’t mind. I always have a good time at Disneyland and think it is a great getaway for a day once and again. I have been to Hong Kong Disneyland four times now. Once in 2011 before the Saga and three times now while being pandemically stuck. The first time was about a year ago when Disneyland invited me to come and make an attempt of doing all their rides within a day. That went well. I did exactly that in 2011 as well but the park was smaller back then and had less rides. My second visit was together with ultra-wifey in March this year. Not long ago I pitched HK Disneyland that I could visit on a really rainy day with miserable weather! I thought it would make for an interesting experience, some unique photos and a good marketing angle: you can always have a good time at Disney. Well, they didn’t approve of the idea but suggested I could visit for Halloween. The entire month of October is one long Halloween celebration at HK Disneyland and I went last Wednesday.
The park was full of nice Halloween decorations.
I drew a first sketch of ultra-wifey's and my future home at the Animation Academy.
Do you think she has him under a spell?
The Little Mermaid originates from a Danish fairytale by Hans Christian Andersen.
The 'We Love Mickey' light projection show on Mainstreet USA.
Disneyland After Dark (the Danes will understand).
Well, toward the end of this entry I will once again say that this was a very good week. Potential progress within the Saga, my first ever official ultra-distance race, Disneyland and yet another hot wings challenge. Say what? Another hot wing challenge?? Yes – the nutcases and I meet up most Thursdays, hike for a few hours, sit down over a meal and solve the world affairs. We had six unopened bottles of hot sauce left from the ‘HK HOT WINGS EXPERIENCE” and thought we might do a little re-match amongst the six of us. Unfortunately, Poul couldn’t make it as it was his birthday and he was dining with his wife. Happy birthday Poul! :) Five of us met at 6:00pm. Walked for two hours and then ate fire!! The first six sauces were known to us from last time. In addition I had acquired four new ones: Reaper Evil, The Rapture, Fiery Fool and Da’ Bomb – the final answer. All four above 1 million Scoville. Two of them claiming to be the hottest in the world. Fun, fun, fun :)
My "chicken wings guy" doesn't speak English. But we worked it out.
All set and ready to go. A shame Poul couldn't attend. But we have saved some sauce for him ;)
My goodness!!! The amount of pain which followed after eating the tenth chicken wing!!! The last four were all quite powerful but once done I had a REALLY strong reaction!! Nothing like I’ve ever experienced before. A strong burning sensation deep in my throat, throughout my sinuses and in my nose. Burning! Burning!! BURNING!!! It just wouldn’t quit. Within 15 minutes I ran around like a crazy person stomping my feet, hitting the wall and drinking lots and lots of milk, yoghurt and chocolate milk. It eventually came down to a more bearable pain and I could sit down again. My hands were shaking. My legs were shaking. WOW!? Nobody else had such a violent reaction. It may have been unique to me because I ate the entire chicken wing every time. The final one was really something!! The “sauce” was black/brown and resembled oil rather than sauce. It burned and left a red mark where it touched the skin. It even came with a thin pencil or brushlike structure indicating that a few drops would suffice. We coated the wings in that stuff!! The taste was horrible. It’s not the same ‘Da Bomb’ as in the popular YouTube show ‘Hot Ones’. They use ‘Da Bomb – beyond insanity’ at 135,600 Scoville. We had ‘Da Bomb - The Final Answer’ at 1.5 million Scoville! The Horror. The Horror (Apocalypse Now reference).
Yup! I'm done with that now!!
So much pain!! But...an interesting experience.
Well, that’s it. Thanks to the nutcases for sharing yet another crazy experience with me. The nutcases are Poul the birthday boy, Thomas of the Andersen Clan, Smiley Jakob, Cabcon Kenneth and Six Bottle Jesper. My goodness we have done a lot together by now. Crazy step challenges, Red Cross fundraisings, hikes and Hot Wings Experiences. Good guys all of them. If not for the pandemic they would have been traveling in and out of Hong Kong constantly and our weekly meetups wouldn’t have been possible. Heck – without the pandemic I wouldn’t have been in Hong Kong long enough to meet them. Have a nice weekend wherever you are.
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Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - mouse-worshipper :)
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"
Once Upon A Saga