Haidian District, Beijing
December 10, 2017
The official name of this race, well the official translated name of this race is the “2017 Haidianzhidian Peak Three Peak Cross Country Competition.” Another name of this race that I saw was “2017 Top of the Summit of Haidian Motorcross Dajue Temple, Haidian District, Beijing”. I’m not sure what is the real ‘official’ name but I’ll call it 3Peaks.
Looking at this course profile, I really should call it 4 Peaks.
Might be hard to read but the first climb is 800 meters (2400) and that is just the first climb.
This was my third Chinese trail race this year, all within a few hours driving time of Beijing. And I as I write this, 3 days post race, I am still really sore. My left knee, left thigh, left hip and left shoulder at still ache. Tough to sleep on that side. At least the discomfort is not both sides. The left side is so sore due to a critical lesson I learned during the race:
- Climbing 2400 ft., in a few km, your legs will be like jelly so after reaching the top, do not quickly attempt to start running fast. Your jelly legs will not work right and likely will fall on a pile of rocks and it will hurt.
Yes, after I tried to start running, I tripped and fell, landing on my left side. Lucky, my forward momentum allowed me to duck (hit the ground) and roll and landed back upright on my feel . (very pleased I avoided connecting my head to any of the rocks.) Besides minor bleeding and bruising, the only real damage was cracking the hard case I carry my hearing aides in.
Of the 3 trail races this year (21k, 30k, 21k), this one was the toughest. Did I mention the race starts with a climb of 2400ft! It took me nearly two HOURS to get to the top of the second peak and that’s only a third of the total distance.
How steep was it, crazy steep- look I have pictures: ->
Have I mentioned how much I LOVE my trail shoes. Not a single blister or bloody toe (toenail).
They say getting to the starting line can be the toughest part of a race. When I ran the 3 Peaks 21k Mountain race, that statement was nearly true.
About a year ago, I joined the local running group, “Hey Running”. Initially, I thought I’d use this group to meet others to train for urban road half and full marathons, in China and SE Asia. But through this group, I quickly learned of the booming trail running scene, in China and SE Asia. And what makes all this “learning” possible is WeChat.
Soon after I attended my first Hey Running session in Chaoyang Park, one of the team leaders asked, “are you on WeChat, I’ll invite you to our (WeChat) group.” That evening, I received a request to join the Hey Running group on WeChat. Once I ‘accepted’, I had access to the daily discussions the members of the group discusssed, which is mostly upcoming races. And most of the races they talked about were trail, not urban, races.
In January 2017, a weChat discussion began about some race, in about a month. Immediately, about a dozen runners, all said positive things about the race and said they were (or have) signing up. And one person, posted a link to the race website and registration page. (how convenient is that). Unfortunately, the website was in Chinese. Remember, I’m living in China. But the same person that shared the link also reminded the group members, who can’t read Chinese, the best way to read the website is to use Google Chrome as your browser and set it to auto translate Chinese-> English by default. Took me about 5 minutes to download, install and configure this and boom, I’m reading the about the race in English.
Once I learned about details of the race, and that others were forming car pools to get the start line, I decided to sign up for my first trail race in China.
After I announced I was signed up, one member sent me a wechat request, to join the “sub group”, for this race. Now I was a member of the HeyRunning wechat group and a member of a second group, a sub group for Hey Running. This group would discuss the details of the race; the course, the weather, air quality and transportation. Once connected to this group of people and using the all-powerful WeChat, complex tasks became pretty simple.
Back in October 2017, I was thinking about running one more Trail race for 2017. I’d already completed:
- Feb- 21k mt trail race
- March- Seoul international marathon
- June – Liangshang 30k Mt trail race
- Sept- Half marathon trail run in WA, USA
- October- 21k mt trail race
That is the most races I’ve ever run, in one year. And with only ‘minor’ injuries. (knock on wood).
The main driver for wanting to run one more race is that having a race approaching would give my training motivation and focus.
As before, someone on the Hey Runing WeChat group posted about the “3 Peaks 21k Mt trail race”, for early December 2017 and announced registration had just opened. In China, races tend to have brief registration periods, like 4 weeks or less. A few other runners immediately chimed in that this race had solid organization, was just an hour away and unfortunately each mentioned this race could be COLD.
Several folks ran it last year and although the course is steep (nearly 6k of climbing in 13miles) the real struggle would be battling the cold Siberian winds while up on the ridge lines. This warning did cause me to pause, but, because I wanted one more race in December, I bit the bullet and signed up.
Part of the typical (Chinese) race registration is to prove you are ‘fit’ enough to run the race. Normally, if you send in a “race certificate”, from a completed similar race, in the past year, that will do. Or you can send in a medical form, stating the doctor gives you permission to race, based upon your good health. So, I sent in my September race certificate and my registration was accepted.
About a week later, the WeChat sub group for this race posted that the race organizers were changing the rules and now, everyone need a Blood pressure and EKG test from a doctor, besides the medical form to run this race.
The trail race I ran back in June, a 50k runner had suffered a heart attack and died on the course. Since then, race organizers were adding this requirement to attempt to lessen the chances of this tragic event being repeating. Registered runners had to turn in this medical test report, when we picked up our race bib. WeChat saved the day, without it, I never would have known of this new requirement.
My next step in the process of getting to the start line would be obtaining this medical document. I do have a local doctor, a very helpful German guy who works at one of the Expat friendly hospitals. When I called his office to book an appointment with him, the receptionist, speaking pretty good English, but not her first language, didn’t really understand why I needed these tests. I just told her to book me an appointment, explaining in person is much easier.
The doctor’s appointment went well, the MD understood my needs and gave me the blood pressure test. Unfortunately, I’d have to book an appointment at their hospital for the EKG. So, the scheduling process was repeated and a few days later, I had requirement document (signed by MD) in hand. One step closer to the start line…
The last task before race day was picking up my race bib. Chinese races ask racers to pick up their bib a week before, usually at a sports store that is a race sponsor. For this race, the store was located at the Olympic park. I never heard of the store but I have been to the Olympic park and its an easy 45 minute metro ride.
One day before bib pick up day, the race WeChat group started a LONG message string. No one could find the store location on Googlemaps or AppleMap. A few times before, I’ve had a lot of trouble finding specific locations (stores, restaurants) using these mobile maps. Not sure why. This time, the problem was, the store location wasn’t given specific enough. The pin drop was at the closest metro stop. Fortunately, someone in the weChat group works nearby and went to the park to find the store and took pictures of it- since the store name is in Chinese, most runners don’t read Mandarin.
The next day, I jumped on the amazingly clean, cheap, safe and efficient Beijing metro to the Olympic park to pick up my bib. Now remember, to get the bib, I had to turn in the medical form.
I arrived just as the store opened so was the first in line to pick up my bib. One store employee spoke some English and asked me to hand a woman (medical person maybe) my medical form (it was in Chinese and English). Immediately, after reading it she started asking another employee a bunch of questions concerning my form. They went back and forth about something in my document, then she walked away, still holding my document.
Since it was the day before the race, if she told me my form was invalid, I’d have to beg for another appointment to get the form updated. While waiting for her to return, with my form, I was sweating.
Maybe 5 minutes later, but felt like 25, she returned, half smiled at me, said something in Mandarin and then handed me my bib. Yes! All that remains is to get to the starting line.
The race was much closer to town then the other trail runs I’ve done in 2017. About a one hour drive, from Chaoyang District (east side of downtown). From the weChat sub group, I joined a car pool with three other guys who lived nearby but I had never met any of them.
The day of the race, about 6:30am, I biked about a mile to Tim’s apartment. I leave my bike, knowing when I return to ride home, I’m going to be ‘hurting’. Vincent meets us there. One Aussie and one Frenchman and me, drive off to the mountains NW of Beijing.
Vincent had recently been to this area, so fortunately no problems finding the start line. We arrived about an hour before start time. The place is empty. Like a ghost town. The organizers are just arriving and setting up flimsy tents and tables for their race HQ. The wind batters them. I hadn’t noticed how strong the wind was. And its about 32 F. Thinking about what the temps may be up on the ridge line, 2,000 feet above us, not comforting….
Like all other local races, there are zero porta-potties. The race starts at the edge of a small village so the only ‘facilities’ are the town public toilets. With about 3 stalls per gender, glad this race is tiny.
In the next 50 minutes, about 100-150 runners trickle in. About half local, half expats. The race sponsors offer a group warm up, which consists of techno pop (volume set to 11) and 2 females leading an aerobic dance on a small stage. Most the racers join in and it’s a nice little moment of community. We line up and then the gun goes off.
The first 100 yards, I mean meters, is following the (not very wide) cement path through the town to where the trail picks up. I’m about in the first 3rd, no need to be up front since we all will be walking soon.
Here is how the official website describes the race (translated by Google Chrome):
“Sanfeng even wears the line as the classic outdoor hiking route in Beijing. The starting point is Dajusi Temple in Haidian District. Because it passes through the tip of the northern tip of the radish, the balcony mountain, and the Miaofeng Mountain three peaks more than one kilometer above sea level, it is called the three peaks and the line is worn. Among them, the north tip of the radish is 1,050 meters above sea level, the balcony mountain is 1,276 meters above sea level, the highest peak in the Haidian region, and the Miaofeng Mountain is 1,291 meters above sea level. It belongs to the Mentougou District, and the distance between the three peaks is 21 kilometers and the cumulative climb is 1700 meters. These are the wilderness dirt roads, which belong to the more difficult route in the 21km race. It is very challenging and it is also the place where the runners often go. The line of the game follows the classic three-peak line, allowing runners to experience the purest trail running! ”
After I read that the first time, the only fact I remembered was “cumulative climb 1700meters.”
Of the 3 trail races this year (21k, 30k, 21k), this one was the toughest. Did I mention the race starts with a climb of 2400ft! It took me nearly two HOURS to get to the top of the second peak and that’s only a third of the total distance. Thank goodness the air is good, and clean blue skies cause this might be a long day.
One hour and 38minutes later, I reached the first (of 3) peaks. I was spent, even after slowly jogging or power hiking up. My thighs were on fire.
After the route levels off, I start to actually jog and immediately trip on a rock. I hit the ground (more rocks) on my left hip and my momentum carries me into a tuck and roll and I nearly land right back on both feet, upright. (bad that sore spot on my hip is going to be an ugly bruise tonight)
Up on the ridge now, the sky is blue bird clear. Yeah, its cold but just keep moving. When the wind blows, that is a different matter.
My first 5 miles, to the first peak:
|Splits||Time||Cumulative Time||Moving Time||Distance||Elev Gain|
After the first 5 miles, the middle section is up the ridge and pretty nice, rolling hills, up and down. One or two parts are very steep but luckily very short.
I was carrying about a liter of water in my main water bladder and two 17oz soft bottles of Gatorade on my chest. Think I ate about 4 GU during the race. Aid station offered water but don’t recall eating any food.
Once we start downhill, last three miles, tried to pick up the pace but so many stones on the trails slowed me down. Just don’t trip….
The last 30 minutes, my thighs, calfs and feet are aching, throbbing or both. Too many stones and stone steps. Man that hurts when your legs are cooked.
I didn’t run with any friends although at the finish did discover half dozen folks I knew already finished. The race didn’t give out much food at the finish line but they served some sort of hot broth, that was fantastic. Quickly warmed up frozen toes and fingers.
Overall, I was pleased with the day. Cold but not frigid but actually warm in the sunshine. Running (or really hiking up) 5700 ft in 4:03:06, I can accept that time. Nice way to wrap up my most productive year racing yet. And cheers to 2018!
Speaking of weChat, someone posted this great video summary of the day. Apologies for the commercials.