2013 Vibram Hong Kong 100: Pre-race interviews part 2 – Olya Korzh and Team Vibram Europe

In our second part of the HK100 pre-race interviews, Lloyd Belcher and Andre Blumberg met up with Olya Korzh and also connected with two experienced trail runners from Team Vibram Europe, namely Nicola Bassi and Sebastien Nain.

Olya Korzh is a female trail runner based in Hong Kong. She finished in a strong 4th place at the 2012 HK100 race and is locally particularly well-known for her excellent track record at the mountain marathon distance. Olya is the reigning champion of the 2011/12 King of the Hills series and she has positioned herself well to retain the crown by also winning the first two of four races in the on-going 2012/13 KOTH series. With last year’s HK100 female champion Nora Senn confirmed to take it a bit easier this year and “sweep the course with dog Wotan”, as well as the other two local trail superstars Kami Semick and Claire Price dealing with niggles and minor injuries, 2013 might well be the year for Korzh to take the top spot. Let’s see how she is preparing for the challenge:

Vibram as the title sponsor for the HK100 has every year brought their regional Asia-Pacific based athletes to participate in the race. This year however, Vibram is going a step further and flying in two experienced Euro hot shots who are expected to stir up the field at the pointy end. We connected with Nicola Bassi from Italy and Sebastien Nain from France to get their perspective on racing in Asia.

1. What is your running background? When did you start with ultra trail running and what are some of your recent race achievements?

Nicola Bassi (NB): As a child I played football for ten years. When I was 16, I started going to the mountain for climbing and I started running to train. Then I focused on running and I found out I prefer longer races. I’ve now been running for 7 years more or less and I’ve been focusing on ultra running for about 3 years. Some of my recent race achievements:

2012: 11th place at Lavaredo Ultra Trail 118km

2011: 2nd place at Magredi Mountain Trail 100 miles

2011: 1st place at Adamello Supertrail 100 miles, also in the same year Transgrancanaria 123km, Gran Trail 3V and Grand Raid des Pyrenees 100 miles

NB01 - Trail Templiers
Nicola Bassi at the 2012 Endurance Trail de Templier

Sebastien Nain (SB): The Vibram HK100 will be my first race in 2013, a year in which I plan to only race ultras. I am now 40 years old and trying to best balance my passion for the ultra trails with my family (I have a little boy of 3 years) and my work as a fire fighter. I started trail running and especially the ultra trail distance in 2008 with a participation in the Grand Raid Reunion. Every season, I try to focus on two main objectives. My main results, among others:

  • 2012: first participation and 3rd place at Ultra Trail Toubkhal French 105km / 6,500m
  • 2011: 3rd place at Grand Raid French Pyrenees and the first 160km / 10,000m
  • 2010: 10th place and first French at Marathon des Sables (250km in 6 stages)
  • 2009: 1st place at Ultra Trail Verdon 105km / 6500 m
  • 2008: 12th Grand Raid Réunion 150km / 9600 m (first ultra)

Plus there are numerous other victories and podiums on trails, check out more on my blog at www.sebastiennain.org.

2. How do you prepare for a race in Asia where you are not so familiar with the course, elevation profile, climate? Do you expect differences compared to racing in Europe where the sport is a bit more established, especially in France, Italy and Spain?

(NB): Surely there will be many differences, but I think the training for an ultra trail race is based on overcoming difficulties and new problems and I always focus on this, irrespective of course, elevation profile and climate.

(SB): I do not know Asia yet. This is why when I was offered through my sponsor Vibram to race the HK100, I did not hesitate for one second. For me the trail is a journey and an adventure even if competition is present. I think the race will be very fast despite an elevation gain of 4,500m. The course looks hard on the body, especially with the road and stair sections. The climate should suit me well; I saw that the temperatures range from 15 to 18 degrees Celsius. My preparation consisted of biking, strength training (plyometrics) and speed sessions twice per week. We’ll find out if this was the right approach on race day.

Sebastien Nain in his playground
Sebastien Nain in his playground

3. What is your expectation for the Vibram HK100 race? Who do you think will be your key competitors?

(NB): I always expect to do my best, in every race. Even if I don’t arrive among the podium, I consider it a good result if the participants are many and highly competitive. I don’t know the majority of the participants at the 2013 Vibram HK100, but I think Sebastien, my team mate, will give me a hard time.

Nicola Bassi in trail action
Nicola Bassi in trail action

(SB): I hope to give a Top 5 placing to Jerome Bernard, the Vibram team manager, and to Vibram Italy, but we will see. I do not know my opponents, and the race is 100km long, I know that Asians love to run and they run very well. So we’ll see!

4. For anyone just starting new in ultra trail running, what are the top 3 tips you would give them to perform better and enjoy the sport more?

(NB): Prepare for overcoming difficulties of every kind, in every moment. During every race everybody has hard moments, when they think they can never do it. In these moments you will have to focus on the reasons that have brought you there. Great results demand great sacrifices. You have to be sure you have enough motivation to go as far as needed.

(SB): My advise consists of three basics: The first and most important is – be patient! Patience is important both for your body and for your mind. Secondly, maintain the pleasure and have fun. Pleasure in training, as well as putting on a bib. Choose races that attract you personally and don’t follow the trends of others who will race each year since it is hyped up by the media. Make your own conscious choice of race course and make it your race – and then there is happiness!

Thirdly, listen. If I’m tired but the coach asks me to train, I need to listen to my body and rest. Listen during the race, feel the sensations. Listen to the season with a good choice of suitable races throughout the year. Well, above all keep in mind that ultra trail running is a sport, a hobby and it should remain fun in our lives.

Sebastien Nain enjoying the trails
Sebastien Nain enjoying the trails

5. What other races are on your plans for 2013? Anything in Asia or the Americas?

(NB): Unfortunately the cost of these races is very high and that limits my possibilities. Team Vibram is evaluating some races, but I don’t have a fixed program yet.

(SB): Following the Vibram HK100, nothing is decided yet, but I expect that by the end of the month I know a little more. Hoping to live another adventure with Team Vibram and I am considering the following races, among others:

  • March: The North Face Transgrancanaria 125km / 7,500 m
  • May: Transvulcania 85km / 5,000 m
  • July: A race in the USA
  • August: The North Face Ultra Trail Mont Blanc (UTMB)
  • November: Inca Trail Argentina Puna 220km in 6 stages in the highlands

Thanks Nicolai and Sebastien and we look forward to welcome you to Hong Kong and hope you will have an awesome HK100 experience.

In our upcoming third part of the HK100 pre-race coverage we will feature a video interview with Hong Kong based Salomon sponsored athlete Jeremy Ritcey and provide you some insights into two of China’s top trail runners, namely Xing Ruling and Yun YanQiao, who are expected to place well in the women’s and men’s Top 10 fields respectively.


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I'm a mediocre runner who can bat above his average when I train hard. A man of extremes, I do enjoy everything life offers and consider it an absolute pleasure just to be able to put one foot in front of the other and let my mind wander somewhere different.

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