Lijiang Action Asia Ultra Marathon – 60km / 100km – May 20 – 22, 2011
After running the Tiger Leaping Gorge, the plains of Daju and finally Yuhu to Wenhai horse track finishing in Baisha, Anthony Davies and Lucy Marriott won the Lijiang Action Asia 100km ultra marathon 3 day stage race.
Over the 3 days participants mainly from Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, Vietnam and Beijing completed either the 60km or the 100km options thru a taste of the some of the best scenery Yunnan had to offer.
“Fantastic designed course as everyday was completely different taking advantage of all the different areas. There were so many favorites but one that stands out was on day 2 in the Daju valley on that 10km downhill (2500 meters elevation down to the 1600 meter valley) thru the forest with with single track. Really fantastic” said overall winner British and HK resident Anthony Davies who’s total accumulated time was 9 hours 56 minutes.
“Awesome race and really amazing. Loved all the days. Running thru the gorge was incredible” said overall Women’s Lucy Marriott also a resident from Hong Kong who finished in a combined time of 11 hours 32 minutes.
Participants arrived in Lijiang Thursday and checked into the Grand Lijiiang before departing to Shangrila’s Chateau at 5am Friday morning for a 2 hour drive. With sweeping views of the Yangtse river and Tiger Leaping gorge walls leading up the backside of Jade Dragon Snow mountain the ascent was a bit surreal for many, especially with the midst cloud in the air bringing out silhouette colors on the massive walls that are ranked some of the deepest in the world.
One of the most difficult sections on the first day had to be the 28 bends near the beginning of the gorge with steep switchbacks reaching an elevation of 2600 meters, before descending to Tea Horse and Halfway House village checkpoints down in the valley. Participants were asked to be on full alert not listening to music for the next section of windy corner with steep canyon walls and the occasional potential falling rock from goats on the passes. The shorter 60km category finished at Seans guest house in Walnut Grove while the 100k category had one more evil climb thrown in up to the Ancient Path guest house for a 7km round trip before being allowed to cross the finish line.
“That midst was great as after 3 times there I’d never seen it like that as brought on a new dimension. Think everyone was lucky it wasn’t baking hot, as the cooler temperatures definitely brought some very fast times” said course designer Michael Maddess.
There were a few participants before the race talking about being uncomfortable with heights and didn’t like vertigo, but all got through overcoming their fears and pushing their bodies to new limits with the positive experience creating a lively atmosphere after day 1 for a lot of socializing amongst the laid back hikers and serious runners.
The finish area in Walnut Grove half way thru the gorge was a relief for many with a renovated guest house, good food and a stunning gorge wall to stare at while participants chowed down buritos, pizzas, fried rice to numerous choices on the menu.
The owner Sean (from a family living in the Tiger Leaping Gorge for five generations / Tibetan origin) local mayor of the district, realized the tourism potential in one of the world’s deepest river gorges more than 25 yrs ago naming the area, the “Tiger Leaping Gorge”. Sean is disabled, but takes pride in his abilities as a strong, knowledgeable mountain guide and campaigner against the gorge dam.
One of the problems Walnut Grove faces is the depleading number of Walnut trees that made the area famous originally. Many trees have been cut down for either fire wood or just land clearing to increase farm acreage to grow other types of food. Sean has been taking the younger generation outside trying to reincarnate the area and encourage them to plant more trees to bring back the natural beauty of the Walnut Grove many years ago. Not an easy process due to hard soil that takes sometimes up to 30 minutes to dig one hole deep enough to plant the walnut tree. Costs of each tree are not cheap as villagers demand up to Rmb 500 per tree if damaged due to the labor costs to purchase the trees, transport, logistics, arranging manpower, etc. Action Asia Foundation is trying to encourage people to donate to the cause to help revive the area to it’s original beauty.
Saturday participants had the opportunity to order a 4:45am oatmeal and muesli breakfast before a 5:30am departure on local trucks with participants standing in the back of the trucks which created an interesting buzz early in the morning. Driving down the valley while the sun is coming up is an experience to witness as with the ferry crossing opposite Daju. It took over an hour to get down to the Yangtse, cross by ferry and climb up a switchback hill to the Xiamode race start back on the Lijiang county side.
Day 2 in Daju started with participants running thru Xiomede village on a dirt road, then crossing a bridge and climbing up near a farmers field to run along single track trails next to a river to the end of the Daju valley with a few river crossings and dirt roads linking villages. At the bridge turn the 60km category turned back towards Daju direction passing several small villages with sweeping valley views while the 100k category had a 13km uphill switchback run reaching an elevation of over 2500m before descending 9km on forest tracks and single track trails in the trees that participants really had to focus on course markings.
“The 3 day format made the race very interesting. Day 1 & 2 I pushed hard, meaning I could relax a bit on Day 3 and still maintain my overall position. Recovery strategies and nutrition were definately important parts of the race,” said Kurt Lynn who finished 3rd overall.
Many took the afternoon to walk the local villages or just snoozed catching up on well deserved sleep in the old village with cobblestone streets and quiet peacefull atmosphere.
Sunday morning participants left Daju with a 5am departure with a 2.5 hour bus ride watching the sun come up over the horizon as they headed towards Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and the small village of Yuhu resting at 1900meters for a7:40 am start.
The race started off with a 3km uphill climb with many choosing to hike with few brave ones trying to run the horse trail switchbacks.
Participants made their way up to a 3100m elevation reservoir dam, before reaching an old dirt road to serving the dam that they continued on. Still steadly climbing in elevation the road hit a high of 3250m elevation before 60km participants continued downhill on the dirt road while 100km participants were rewarded with beautiful views of the Wenhai valley lake and horses running the grass plains, slight midst and clouds hugging the horizon.
With a long 10km dirt road descending to the next checkpoint, organizers had cut out the last switchbacks by finding some single track horse trails on the side of the dirt road to finish easier (for some) with the Baisha village finish line in sight just below a Tibetan temple.
Organizers had gone all out with a local French pastry chef treating participants at the finish with a lavish buffet rewarding their hard efforts over the Action Asia 3 day ultra marathon.
"This was the best multi-day trail running race I participated in so far. Michael managed to find the perfect locations in the beautiful Yunnan region and although the race was tough and memorable with racers coming from all around the world, one of the memories was the climb into the dump trucks to down a very steep downhill road to get to the start line on the 2nd day, said 5th overall finisher Sandro Gianella who finished the 100km in 10 hours 59 minutes.
With sad faces having to say goodbye, many giving hugs and kisses, a lot were already discussing the next 3 day ultra in Nepal on Oct 1 already and passing suggestions to organizers where to plan the next event.
For those wanting to be on the mailing list for future notices on international events (and local HK events) go to the LOGIN section on toolbar of www.actionasiaevents.com and add your email address.
There is talk of adding more countries and recommendations are welcome (and sponsorship).
Lijiang Action Asia Ultra Results:
100k Men top 3
1. Anthony Davies - 9:56:27
2. Alexandre Sybillain - 10:14:17
3. Kurt Lynn - 10:35:45
100k Women top 3
1. Lucy Marriott - 11:32:33
2. Virginia brooks 14:14:47
3. Olivia Fei Ling Luk - 14:24:0
60k Mens Top 3
1. Stuart Gates - 7:16:25
2. Chris Robinson - 7:31:10
3. Jack Lam - 9:45:03
60km Women top 3
1. Chantelle Woodford - 8:21:55
2 Meaghan Kelliher - 8:42:12
3. Merel De Wildt - 9:52:39