‘Dalat what?’, I quickly keyed in Dalat word in the search engine since I never been to Vietnam, let alone heard about this place. Turned out to be a contrast scenery, not distinctly Asia.
Dalat is a hilly resort and capital of Lam Dong province situated in Central Vietnam at 1,500m above sea level. It’s a modern city that is laid back and lack of hustle bustle.
Le Petite Paris as they called this town, it’s used to be the French retreat town and the capital of French Federation of Indochina during the World War II.Thanks for its 20 degrees Celcius, charming Swiss and French villas, blossoming flowers and pine trees scent in the air – it’s really not difficult to fall in love with this city.
Dalat Ultra Trail Expo
Walking downhill through Dalat Palace garden hotel, I picked up the race kit located at Lam Vien Square by Xuan Huong lake. A nice vibe with live music band. It’s huge outdoor space giving chance for more than 2000 runners to check out the stores (love the Arabica coffee and free pre-race sports tape), mingle and try new gears. I chatted with friendly locals as well as expats there. Tried out the Recovery Sports System at The Endurance Academy booth which made my legs felt lighter for the race.
The race kit comprised of Quechua bag pack, a Led Lenser headlamp and race belt among others. My planning for the race was made easy because the bip number not only contain elevation graph but the distance to run between each checkpoint within the time limit.
I skipped the carbo load dinner (coupon included in the race kit) and opted for a quiet dinner in the hotel instead, followed by an early night.
My Race Experience – 17th March
Roughly an hour bus from Lam Vien Square at 2:30am brought runners to the start line at Hoang Hac Restaurant – one of the most popular restaurants in Dalat I was told. While waiting for the race to start at 4 am, runners were entertained by MCs, Thanh Vu (well – known as The Girl Who Runs Over The World) and Russel Johnson (co-founder of Champion Dash Races, first obstacle race in Vietnam). Kim Matthews, (the event’s ambassador and Australian runner residing in Vietnam) gave her tips before the race started.
The beautiful course took me to soak up the tranquillity of the Valley of Love, Lang Biang Mountain, and Bidoup Nui Ba National Park. The breathtaking natural landscapes surrounded by hills, pine forests, lakes and waterfalls made the run more enjoyable.
Water and 100 plus available at all 10 checkpoints. Bananas also provided, except at Checkpoint 8. During the hot afternoon, ice cubes supplied at the 4 checkpoints really help to cool down.
The rich soil was evidenced when I ran along the coffee plantations, vegetable farms and greenhouses where lilies and roses were grown.
The best part was at Checkpoint 4 when the group of 21km runners with their fresh legs started their race sprinting and joined us, the much tired 70km runners. We hiked up the 1550m steep hill together. Towards the second half of the race, the 40km runners can be seen on the course as well, some simply relaxing by the river – not in hurry mood.
Pleasant weather bathed runners the entire day and it ended with pouring rain, slight thunder and lightning when I reached the finishing line at Golden Valley. Had I not race 100km only a week earlier, the result at Dalat Ultra Trail could have been better. My recovery run ended with 50th place, 5th lady and 1st in my age group.
While others enjoyed the usual Vietnamese noodle soup, I was very happy with rice and fish dish before heading back to the hotel by the free hourly shuttle bus to Dalat city.
Overall, this is a relatively fast course (highest point was 1,745m and cumulative total elevation of 2,080). The steepest hill at 30+ gradient with a majority of runnable section but no technical trail. I would recommend this race to any road runners who want to give trail running a try or for trail runners who like speed without obstacle. No compulsory gears mean long distance runners can run without the hassle of carrying much weight.
Fly to Ho Chi Minh city. Then, take the domestic flight to Dalat. From Dalat Airport (Lien Khuong International Airport), you may board a taxi or shuttle bus about 30 to 40 minutes ride to the city via a good highway.
There is plenty of nice places to stay. I stay at Du Parc Hotel, a short walking distance to Lam Vien Square.
This event was part of Asia Trail Master race series and a second-time event held by 123Go and Vietnam MTB Series. It proved to be a successful one – thanks to around 250 volunteers. Would be more fantastic if: 1. 70km didn’t have to wait too long in the cold morning before the race start, 2. more communication translated in English in the Social Media, 3. vegetarian meal option provided at finishing line, and 4. race result was done instantly or runners can be tracked live.
Visit Dalat Ultra Trail website here for more details. You can sign up for 70 km, 42km, 21km, or 10km. If you fancy for other trail races, do check out Vietnam Jungle Marathon or Vietnam Mountain Marathon which also run by the same credible organiser.
Thank you Dalat Ultra Trail and Asia Trail Master. This is definitely a race to keep coming back to as it brings smiles, joy and happy time on and off the trail.
hẹn gặp lại.