Race: MSIG Taiwan Action Asia 50k – http://www.actionasiaevents.com/our-events/2016-msig-taiwan/overview.html

Runner: Vivian

Date: 11/13/2016

Location: Shihmen Reservoir, Taiwan

Results –

Women 8th overall. 3rd at 50+ women. 11:18

Summary – 

I survived my first skyrunning race in Taiwan. Man it’s hard. It definitely lived up to the skyrunning reputation, no matter where it is. Probably the most technical 50k I’ve ran. Endless climbing and descents, most of them are not easy. Lots of roots and rocks, either embedded or intertwined together, then it became a naturally made steep stairway, with ropes. Definitely climbing with my hands a lot.

Some section was jungle like, lots of uneven stone stairway, some are pretty long, rocks coated with moss or mud (very slippery!), unmaintained beaten paths (looked like they just chopped the overgrowth, cleared the path two days ago). Lots of down trees.

Bamboo forest was kinda pretty but also dangerous. Especially the dry ones. A long time ago my friend got cut by broken bamboo on his thigh. 20 stitches. 10 on inner muscle (cut so deep), 10 on surface. So slowing going. Scratches are okay. Don’t want any cuts on me. This is supposed to be vacation!

Occasionally we did get some road or paved path in between trails. Usually I dislike those. But during the race It was SO nice to get a mental break! It’s very exhausting to stay focused on my footing all time. It’s like a mobility and balancing a long workout.

It was humid and hot and muggy. One volunteer said I looked like a tomato. Because my face was so red. I was glad I had a small Taiwan bill with me. Bought an ice cold drink maybe around 8am when we passed the store the first time. Then the second time I bought a bottle of ice water at a noodle stand, just to water myself. I really regret I didn’t just buy a bag of ice and carry it with me from beginning.

I am glad I did it. I almost wanted to drop at mile 21. Just not fun anymore.

I asked people, is Taiwan trail running always this hard? They said this is probably the hardest one. Website said 9,000ft. Halfway a volunteer told me it’s 4000m (about 12,000 ft) gain and loss. Yeah it felt like it!

Start and finish were in a famous touristy reservoir. The picture below is taken in the early morning after sunrise. Just endless up and downs around those foothills. Looks so innocent and beautiful. But the course made them quite evil.

We started at 5am with headlamp. It means we got up at 2ish,  left at 3aa, be at race at 4am, then rest a little in the car.

Small field. The first women is from Japan? Finished around 8:30. I finished 11:18. Good for 3rd 50+ women. Probably only handful of women ran. It’s UTMB point race. I thought it’s very hard 50k to earn that point!!

taiwan-50k-1

3 Bests – what aspects of the race did you like the most

Ran the hardest 50k in my own country and finished.

Those technical trails were the best HURT training for the future.

It reminds me how much mental power I need to stay focused for so long.

Not so much – aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you

It’s a little wild west there, some sections I don’t think it will pass the safety rule here. There were several sections of ridge line, each one is its own huge rock with some low tree/branch, just some ropes and cable wire along it for me to hold on. I was not sure that was safe enough, I tried to grab the real thing (like rock or roots) Although not exposed, just be very careful, do not fall.

Weird factor – what’s the weirdest thing about this race

Serving hot soup (2 spots) and hot tea (almost every A/S) at 90 degrees! And you got a Taiwan style lunch box when you finished. Ate it right there ????

Highlights of your race – what did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular

It still surprised me how beautiful the Taiwan countryside is. And how hard the trail is and I actually finished.

Lessons for others – share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner

Start slow. I came from 74th place from A/S#1 to 37th at finish. I guess it was slow going for a while, I was glad I still had legs left toward the end.

Lessons you learned that will help you next time around

It’s still very hot in Taiwan in mid November, one spot I almost ran out the water. And carry ice with me.

Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race

I asked my friend to take me to scout the area the weekend before the event. Mainly because I needed to find a coffee shop, a place to eat and walk for Tom, because I know we will be running all day. When I got there, look at those foothills! I instantly knew it was a great place for a trail run. And they can make it easy or very hard. And it’s a pretty challenging course. I was glad I went in advance.

Aesthetics – is it a pretty course

It’s pretty good. We saw a reservoir on one side, and tao yuan basin on the other side of mountains, all these tall buildings in the city. A few spots definitely wowed me. Maybe I was just head down too much looking at roots and rocks the whole time, try not to roll or twist my ankle. Very different landscape for sure.

Difficulty – is it a tough course

Yes.

Organized and well run – did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?

Course was well marked. And lots of volunteers at major junctions.

Competition – is there a strong field?

Small field for women.

Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the race happen.

I asked my friend to find me something to run during my visit. She found a road 50k/100k and this one back in mid Sept. This was my pick. We both signed up. Tom and I took a train to her area and stayed with her on Friday, and we went together on Sat morning. That made it much easier for me.

It’s a UTMB point race, so entry fee was pricey for Taiwan standard. US$80. It’s hosted by Hong Kong company, runners can sign up online, website with English and Chinese. (Most races in Taiwan are not like that)  My friend told me it’s the most foreigners she ever saw at a local race. The race also provides bus from Taipei main station at 3:20am on the race morning. That would be my other option if I go by myself.

Aid Stations

Pretty basic. It said no gel on the website. Just water, banana and orange. And nuun like tablet. But it also served hot soup (fishball and Daikon) at 2 different spots. Runners really stopped for that.

Weather and typical race conditions –

I ran two other road marathons in Taiwan before. November was still hot for me.

Gear – did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next guy?

Besides a couple gels and typical running food, I packed 4 packs of Tailwind. Some are 200 calorie, some are 300. I used it all. I like liquid calorie at hot weather. During the hottest hours, I had 3 bottles, 1 bottle tailwind, 1 bottle of water to drink, 1 bottle of water to water myself. A little buggy at some areas, but I can’t wear long pants and long sleeves like local people.

Spectators – is this a friendly course for your friends

Not really.

Awards –

Sponsored by Hoka. I heard top finishers got shoes.

The Overall Score – how many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it

10? It’s a good race, eye opening for me, if I am around, I will do it again.