rudy gilman

Sai Kung MSIG 50 km, Hong Kong

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The race was pleasant. I was alone the whole time, listening to music and enjoying the scenery.

I ran up and down some mountains,

climbin mt

across some beaches,

msig beach

and won comfortably, dropping the course record by almost an hour.

msig finish

Written by hanbao

March 7, 2014 at 5:33 am

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Sahara Race 2014

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I worked on the course team for racingtheplanet’s 7-day ultra marathon in Jordan. It was an excellent couple of weeks sleeping under the stars, running through the desert, eating hummus and pita bread, and hanging out with cool people.

Every night, the 200 or so competitors and staff slept in a small tent village, which was packed and moved to the next site after the athletes took off in the morning.

Camp one

Camp one

We were responsible for marking the 250 km course with pink flags. I got to run the whole route, some of it more than once.

run

The team was me, Carlos the course director, our driver Ahmed, and David, a German fruit farmer and runner.

Me, Carlos, and Ahmed

Me, Carlos, and Ahmed

Me, camel, and David

Me, camel, and David.

Me and Carlos

Me and Carlos

The race finished in Petra, the place from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

armory

Written by hanbao

February 25, 2014 at 6:15 am

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Shangrila 100 km

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100 km (62 miles) is a long way to run. The race was all above 11,000 feet, climbing and descending through steep mountains, swamps, and forests of thorn bushes. I finished in ten and a half hours, eight minutes behind the leader. We were the only ones back in time for the awards ceremony.

Me and Jiagen

Me and Jiagen

Written by hanbao

October 5, 2013 at 6:39 am

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Tea and Horse Trail Recce

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In October, a group of North Face athletes want to run the Tea and Horse trail from Dali to Shangrila. It’s about 300 km through mountainous terrain, with altitude ranging between 2,000 and 4,400 meters (6,500 to 14,000 feet). Our friend, Kami, is leading the team. She asked Pav, me and Ed, a leader of designer tours based out of Dali, to help out.

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The system of old caravan trails runs from Southeast Asia up to Tibet.  We spent a week exploring the route in preparation. The area is beautiful. Rhododendrons grow to gigantic size because of the altitude. Above the treeline the landscape looks lunar.

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We camped at  4,200 meters on the banks of a lake just underneath the summit of the mountain.

IMG_0964

Written by hanbao

August 18, 2013 at 7:39 am

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White River 50

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The race was excellent: Flowing trails under a shady forest canopy, beautiful scenery with views of Rainier in the background. I actually enjoyed the surroundings for the first 40 miles.

You can tell this wasn't taken in the last part of the race because I don't look like a miserable, dead thing yet.

You can tell this wasn’t taken in the last part of the race because I don’t look like a miserable, dead thing yet.

I won the race in 6h 43m, a decent time for the course.

Written by hanbao

August 18, 2013 at 6:32 am

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National Adventure Racing Challenge, Ningbo 全国山地户外运动挑战赛

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The race itself wasn’t actually put on by the Ningbo municipal government, but by the district government of an awful area in the northeastern part of city. It seemed like a strange place to hold an outdoor sporting competition, seeing as there was no wilderness anywhere, just polluted waste canals and some half-developed, half-deforested  semi-nature like you can find at the outskirts of any Chinese city. When asked why they were holding the race there, a guy at the Chinese Mountaineering Association (CMA) said: “Because that’s who gave the money”.

The race was for teams of two people and held over two days, my partner was a middle-aged Chinese ex pro cyclist I met in Xinjiang. He’d told me about and invited me to the race, and assured me foreigners could compete. I emailed the guys I know at the CMA to confirm, but neither responded, so I had my partner call them directly and verify again. He did. When I showed up at the event hotel the day before the race my partner was having a heated discussion with a group of guys from the CMA, I found an event brochure and flipped to the competitors list—sure enough, we weren’t on it.

I walked over to the group and was told we couldn’t participate because I was a foreigner and this was a national race. They said my participating in the race was unfair to Chinese competitors. My partner was extremely disappointed—he’d ridden the train 72 hours from his home in Urumqi just for this race. We settled on a compromise where we could compete unofficially, our scores wouldn’t be counted, we would be ineligible for prize money and we wouldn’t receive the travel allowance given to athletes. I also couldn’t give interviews and we wouldn’t use a pro kayak during the race, but a heavy, recreational paddle boat.

How did this colossal eff-up happen? The CMA is a huge, bureaucratic organization. The guys I deal with are young and have sports backgrounds. They’re responsible for actual working operations and events, are super busy and have no power whatsoever. They’re at the total bottom of the bureaucratic pyramid, and their decision to let me participate could have been vetoed by any one of their thirty five bosses.

Note: These bosses are fat, chain-smoking men who ended up drunk by 4 pm the day after the race, puking outside the hotel elevators. As an indicator of the quality of this type of dude, the one puking outside the elevator at 4 pm not only wasn’t embarrassed, he was super proud because this shows he can do whatever he wants, whenever, wherever.

This was the first time I’d done this type of combination kayaking, rappelling, running and cycling event. The race started with 15 km of kayaking in the waste canals I’d seen earlier. The water was grey with industrial runoff and sewage, with lots of floating garbage. In a few sections there were massive trash fires on the banks, and the toxic smoke would blow over the canal in heavy clouds, making it difficult to breath. Every time we paddled under a road bridge the spectators would yell FOREIGNER! FOREIGNER! It was hellish.

We started last and got to enjoy the carnage as many of the inexperienced athletes overturned their kayaks and ended up floundering around in the filthy sewage. Of thirty teams, at least five flipped their boats trying to get in. Paddling 15 km in our monstrosity of a boat took over 1.5 hours, and by the end my arms were so exhausted I could barely lift the paddle. My hands felt like jelly and the oar kept slipping from my grip. I was happy to be finished, but also terrified because the next event was rappelling and I’d never rappelled before.

Luckily it wasn’t a real rappel, though the reality was more gruesome: We had to pull ourselves hand over hand through the waste canal along a rope hanging a few feet above the surface. It took only a minute, but we ended up freezing and soaked in sewage and industrial waste.

Then we started the 6 mile cross country run, which took place in the half-developed, half-deforested suburban outskirts mentioned earlier. It was hilly and muddy, and we passed quite a few teams. On the flat and uphill sections my partner would clip into a light tow rope fastened between our waists and I would pull him. The same teams that had flipped their kayaks earlier had a hard time with the muddy downhills—a few of the girls were terrified, inching slowing down the trail sitting on their bottoms. Some of the uphills were so steep and slippery teams could barely get to the top. I grabbed two short, sharp sticks and used them like climbing axes, driving them into the ground and pulling us up hand over hand.

After an hour of towing we reached the beginning of the bike section, which was 12 miles over the same muddy terrain. We finished it without difficulty, dropped our bikes at the swap station and ran the last mile to the finish line. We came in fifth for the day. The second day’s course was pretty similar, and we came in fifth again.

At the prize ceremony after the race all the top teams got windshield-sized checks and bouquets of flowers. My partner and I sat in the back and watched, we would’ve gotten $1,600 if our results had counted. One of the young CMA guys told me to grab a lunchbox from the pile in the back. I did, and just as I was about to open it a potbellied CMA boss with cigarette tar stains across his front teeth walked up and told me I couldn’t have a lunchbox because they were only for staff and athletes.  I couldn’t really muster up any more disappointment or anger, I just gave him the lunch back and sat there tired and hungry—a nice metaphor for the whole weekend.

Written by hanbao

April 10, 2013 at 8:02 am

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Rudy Discriminated against, Mountain Closed

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This weekend I was planning to compete in a race in Hainan, a tropical island off mainland China’s southern coast. The race was 12 km, all uphill with mixed terrain and generous prize money. I was registered, had bought plane tickets and altered my training week. The Chinese Mountaineering Association had said they were happy to have me participate, though it was technically a ‘national’ not ‘international’ race. This morning I got a call from race organizers saying I was actually prohibited from racing because I’m not Chinese. I was disappointed but  not entirely surprised.

This race wasn’t connected in any way with the Chinese national or provincial running teams and was clearly billed as a recreational event for normal weekend-warrior types. The brochure said it was aimed at promoting public fitness and environmental awareness. Even the race name itself, playfully titled “The 2012 National Healthy Mountaineering for the Masses Assembly Second-Edition of the Five-Finger Mountain Tropical Forest Mountaineering Race Competition” (2012全国群众登山健身大会暨第二届五指山热带雨林登山赛竞赛)suggests an amateur event like any 10 km fun run back in the US. Except in the US—in any modern country for that matter—no one would get a phone call the day before a race telling them they can’t compete because they’re a foreigner.

They refunded my plane tickets and the poor woman tasked with uninviting me was embarrassed and apologetic. Nonetheless I sent a letter to the CMA politely expressing my thoughts on the situation, which I’m sure was promptly ignored. We’re all friends again—Pav and I just got an email from the CMA inviting us to a series of races in early 2013 (all ‘international’, of course).

Salt on the wounds

A more serious blow than my uninvitation from the Hainan race was our recent discovery that the mountain range behind our house has been closed. At literally every entrance to the mountains there are officials (deputized peasants with official-looking sashes and notebooks) manning roadblocks. I’ve heard if you sneak through the perimeter these officials will hunt you down in 4-wheel drive jeeps.

Our mountain before it got closed.

Our mountain before it got closed.

We’ve encountered many off-limits areas in our time running in China—like two months ago when we somehow managed to infiltrate an army base and were escorted out by an armed and really confused lieutenant—but this is the first time I’ve heard of a whole mountain range being closed. The reason actually makes a lot of sense: It’s dry season and Chinese people love to hike and smoke, cycle and smoke, picnic and smoke. Pretty much they just like to smoke, and the mountain has nearly burned down more than a few times in the past.

Being barred from our mountain makes training significantly more difficult and has required some creativity on our part. My running now mostly consists of: 1) Hill repeats at Peasant-shit Canyon, a filthy one-minute hill close to our apartment thus named for obvious reasons. 2) Running laps at our local track, a curious 304 meter dirt thing where high-school students come to make out, families come to picnic and old people come to walk backwards (walking backwards has good effects on the body, apparently). 3) Stair repeats in our apartment stairwell. This confuses our neighbors.

Pav prefers to run two kilometers to a local university. They have a full 400-meter track but the whole south corner smells like a Chinese bathroom and the leathery groundskeeper likes to make garbage bonfires that engulf whole sections of the track in foul smoke. Also, if it’s class time the girls attending PE holler at me things like “so cool!” and “slow down, handsome man!” To cap things off, there’s a contingent of old guys who come out to fly kites, they usually position themselves so the invisible kite strings cross the inner lanes at about neck level.

Written by hanbao

December 15, 2012 at 10:29 am

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