Asia Trail speaks to Kristian Joergensen, the first finisher at the 2019 edition of Hong Kong Four Trails Ultra Challenge on 5-7 February. His 55:52 finish time is the third fastest in the history of the event and made even more impressive by unseasonably warm conditions, this being his first time on most of the course and his own unusual issues. Read on to find out how he did it.
Asia Trail: So Kristian, we were all glued to our screens for the entire event over Chinese New Year. Congratulations on your wonderful achievement. Tell us how you’re feeling right now.
Kristian Joergensen: Thanks a lot! Right now, I feel overwhelmed, tired and relieved that is done, but also a bit empty knowing that it’s over. There are so many impressions and feelings I am trying to swallow right. It’s like a big puzzle that I can’t put together. So many things I’ve never experienced or felt happened out there.
Asia Trail: So how do you prepare for a run like HK4TUC? It must be so different from any other race or challenge.
Kristian Joergensen: After I dropped out last year, I told myself, that this is something that has to be done! So the mental preparation and motivation were with me for a year. Training wise, I consulted Andy Dubois from Mile27 and told him about my plans, and he made a programme for me.
Asia Trail: So what sort of programme does a professional trail coach prescribe for HK4TUC?
Kristian Joergensen: We did a four-month training block, where we did some good mixes of hard and easy sessions, intervals, hilly runs on paved roads to get used to the hard surfaces in Hong Kong, and some good stairs sessions in my office building. If you just knew how many times the guards tried to stop the white man from running up and down the stairs in that building! I am not very popular… And, of course, some long runs out on the trails. The sessions were based on time on feet, not distance or pace, so in the weekdays a normal session was two hours, and the weekends three hours and five hours, and running every day except for Mondays.
Asia Trail: Did working with a coach help?
Kristian Joergensen: Normally I train when I like so – you probably know it yourself – it can be easy to skip some days when you are tired or busy. Working with a coach, in a structured programme, was the key here. Knowing that if you skip a session, that he will see it, it was almost like being back to school, where HK4TUC was the great exam.
Asia Trail: You whizzed off to a 14:09 on the Mac, a couple of hours ahead of the next runner. What was the race strategy? Was it banking time early? Were you simply looking to “break 60” or really to go for the best possible time?
Kristian Joergensen: The 14 hours was planned, so we could be ahead and have some extra time in the bank, in case of unforeseen delays or in case I had to slow down on the other trails, which I did on Wilson. Oh man, that was rough times…
Asia Trail: Most races have a few low points and HK4TUC probably has a hundred of them! How were the ups and downs for you, and how do you deal with the rough times?
Kristian Joergensen: I know, I had so many! Normally, I do not mind having rough times in a race, as I know they come go. But here, I seriously don’t know how I managed to deal with it, and that’s the beauty of this race. At this moment, I am still trying to figure out what happened and how I dealt with it. All I can say is something special happened, something I have never experienced before!
Asia Trail: We can’t let you go without asking about the most famous shaved balls in global trail running! Tell us the back story.
Kristian Joergensen: Haha, that was so stupid of me! 2 days before leaving for Hong Kong, I had the bright idea of cutting it short down there. Don’t ask me why, but I thought the hair could grow out in time, and give me a smoother experience. So after being soaked in sweat for the whole day on Maclehose Trail, I started to chafe down there because my shorts were so soaked. On the Wilson, I took off my shorts and ran the rest of the trail in just the T8 underwear and what a relief that was.
Asia Trail: You’re from Denmark originally but now based in Pasig in the Philippines. Where do you train locally, and tell us a little about the running community over there? What does it mean to represent the Philippines in these races?
Kristian Joergensen: Yes I’m from Denmark, but have been living in the Philippines for the past 13 years. Pasig is not really a trail runners paradise, so I train in the Rizal Mountains, which are an hour from Manila. Here, we have lovely raw trails! The community here is so cool, and the people are so friendly and down to earth. It means a lot to me to represent the Philippines and the Filipino people, as this is my home. They are proud people, and will always be there to help you out, so I feel like giving something back is the least I can do!
Kristian Joergensen: Firstly, sort out a good crew and logistics plan, and prepare them for some tough days. Secondly, study all four trails and, if possible, do a recce, so you know what you are getting into. Trust me, all the trails are rough, and just when you think you’ve been through some of the worst, another steep hill or a nasty downhill will be in front of you. But most importantly, keep moving. When tired or hungry, slow down and walk, eat and walk, drink and walk! I didn’t sit down for a break, except when I was refilling water or buying food or in transition. After that many hours on your feet, it’s so hard to get the body going after a sitting break, plus the clock is always ticking. So move as much as possible!
Asia Trail: That’s great advice and thanks again, Kristian, for the wise words and talking us through your amazing experience.
– John Ellis from Gone Running was interviewing Kristian Joergensen for Asia Trail