Ultra champ Evelyn Lek used to run 5km to 10km many years ago, but then stopped completely for 5 years until 2014. From then she ran numerous half-marathon and full-marathons and a few road ultras. In 2016 she completed a 120km trail ultra-marathon over 3 days. In 2018 however her ultra carrier took off, with a win at the TMMT 100k followed winning VMM 100 in September.
1. Congratulations again on becoming a VMM champ this year! Did you feel like you were on a good day all the way through? And how did it feel to cross the line?
I was feeling good and very excited at the start point. To run safe, enjoy the trail, do my best and finish strong were my aims. I did not expect to come in first position as there were many strong runners competing. I did not want to pressure myself, I kept myself on pace, not to push myself too hard in the beginning part of 30km as this is my first high elevation course. Some part of the trails were very slippery and I fell many times. I was thankful that some runners helped me up along the way when I fell. That’s when I understood that the majority of the 100km runners were all with poles!
This is one of my toughest and highest elevation trails. It is well-mixed with road and trail. At 70km, my watch was showing 15hrs 15mins, I started to wonder will I be able to complete the race on time? I felt very exhausted and all I could do was to motivate myself to never give up and keep going!
I have learnt and gained many experiences in this race. It was a mental battle and self-motivation from 55km to the end. At the same time, I was awarded by the beautiful and magnificent view of Sapa. I was so thankful and happy when crossing the finishing line. Telling myself, I did it! Well done!
2. What was the hardest part of the course?
The hardest part of the course is at the highest peak 55km to 65km Cp2 to Cp3. It was non-stop ascending up the peak. The last Cp7 95km was a real challenging climb too. I was very hungry and tired after numerous climbs. The descending at the last part towards the finishing line was a bonus, it helps reduce some time speeding up down hill.
3. Did you have a strategy for race day? If so, did you execute it as planned?
My strategy is to know the course and plan how you going to pace yourself throughout the whole race. Rest well before the race. I try not to run two days before my race, this is to keep myself well prepared and restore my energy for the D day. I don’t carbo load before the race, it depends on individual. I eat as per normal. I don’t have a specific diet to follow. I just eat my comfort food and I snack too.
I will not try any new food or product before my race, this is to prevent any stomach upset during the race.
4. What was a typical week of training in the build up to VMM?
I trained one and a half months for VMM. I did 2-3 strength training sessions on weekdays and long steady distances on weekend. Mixture of road, trail and slope training weekly. A taper 1 week before the race is important too.
5. What inspired you to get into ultra running? And do you have any endurance athlete idols you look up to?
I love trail and always enjoy the feeling when I run, a feeling of amazing, beautiful and carefree moments. Feeling the wind fall onto your face, hearing the birds and the wind through the trees. The sound of your own foot-steps and your breathing.
I just put one foot in-front of the other. All of the stress and thinking just kind of disappears and it is not just about me, it is about everything surrounding me. The moment of feeling your soul and your mind, your arm and your legs are all in one. Everything working and everything going the way it’s supposed to be. The longer distance I run, it allows me to enter into that place and explore myself and explore my mind and body on actually how far I can go! It just makes me happy and feel good on each ultra run.
My Idol female trail runner is Emelie Forsberg and male trail runner is Francois D’Haene.
6. How is the training for trails and hills in Singapore?
Singapore is a small country, I train at MacRitchie Reservoir and Bukit Timah Hill. There is a Mount Faber park with lots of steps and elevation as well. Sometimes I will follow other runners into Malaysia for training, but not often.
7. Your running group, Brown Shoes Kakis, was out in force at VMM this year. What’s it like to be part of this club?
I met David S in Cultra Cameron Trail 2018 and was invited to join the Brown Shoes Kakis group. This is an amazing running group, they are friendly and helpful in many ways.
I was very happy and excited when I got the free bib for VMM. BSK is going to VMM as well! Trung was very kind for letting me tag along with him and some of the BSK runners, who are David F (3rd position for 100km) , Trung (4th position for 100km), David S (7th position for 70km), and Anh (2nd for 42km). All the logistics and transportation were taken care of by Trung. I am very thankful for his effort to gather us together for this race.
We also trained together for this race often. All of them have given me advice on trail running and taken good care of me.
8. What advice do you have for others who are considering a VMM ultra for the first time?
Training for VMM 100km is needed. Train on the hill and slopes as VMM is a high elevation course. Add in weekly a long distance of about 30 to 50km, this helps in completing the race as well. Most important – eat and rest well after each training session.
9. When will you next be back to race in Vietnam?
Planning in 2019 for Vietnam Trail Marathon.
10. What is your favourite piece of trail running kit?
My buff, always with me for all my trail runs. Keeping my hair in place, absorbing my sweat and also handy as a glove when necessary.
11. What is your funniest or fondest running memory?
I have two – both from VMM – the two rivers crossings. At the first I ran right into the middle of river with water up to my knees and I just slipped on the pebbles and fell into the stream. The photographer was telling me, you should have crossed further down instead! I was so embarrassed, but the cool water did wake me up a bit as dawn was approaching.
The second is the river crossing in the paddy field. I was running towards the opposite side of the river on a small wooden plank and I lost my balance and fell into the water again just 2 more steps before reaching the shore. I heard somebody was laughing again and saw the photographer taking my photo. Another embarrassing moment, but thanks the photographers for the nice river pictures!