Taiwan Action Asia 50 “a truly incredible experience”, says trail running champ Ixel
Winner of the race’s inaugural edition shares about the challenges of Taiwan’s trails and how he keeps in fighting fit shape
Vlad Ixel has raced 30 to 40 times each year, every year, since he started running competitively in 2013. But for the Australian national trail runner, among all the locations around the world he has raced in, Taiwan holds a special place in his heart.
“All the races I have done in Taiwan have been really enjoyable,” says Ixel, champion of the inaugural Taiwan Action Asia 50 in 2014. “I love the region, I love the people there, and they have some of the best vegan food there, so it’s always a great place to travel to.”
Ixel, a vegan since 2012, most recently raced in Taiwan in March 2018 in Taitung. He also ran the Taipei Marathon two years ago. However, winning the 2014 Taiwan Action Asia 50 has been a highlight of his career.
“The Taiwan Action Asia 50 is by far one of my favourite races,” says Ixel, who is sponsored by The North Face. “I felt like I was Rambo running away from the authorities during this race. The course is mostly jungle and you feel like you are in the middle of nowhere while jumping on rocks and crossing rivers. It was a truly incredible experience.”
The MSIG Taiwan Action Asia 50 returns to Shihmen Reservoir on Saturday, November 10, 2018, for its fifth edition. The challenging 50-kilometre course includes a total of 3,016m of thigh-burning elevation gain and takes competitors over rope climbs, rocky ridges and river gullies.
In addition to the 50km there will also be 21km, 13km and 6km events to cater to trail runners and hikers of all abilities.
Says Ixel: “It's not an easy course. It has a lot of technical running with a nice amount of elevation. But what I love most about it is how green it is — parts of the course are in this deep jungle and it really feels like you are in a movie. The trails in Taiwan are a little harder than in Hong Kong in general, as there are fewer stairs so it’s really a bit more technical.
“This is what I love about trail races, that most trails are so different, and even though Hong Kong is not far away from Taiwan, the trail itself is two different worlds.”
It’s been about five years since Ixel — a former pack-a-day smoker and heavy drinker — first burst onto the trail running scene in Asia. What’s the secret to keeping his body fresh and in top shape year after year?
“I do a lot of yoga, strength work, balance work, cross training, and mobility work to make sure my body stays strong and can handle the training and racing,” says Ixel. “On top of that, I know how important sleep and a good diet is, and I do my best to keep my diet as clean as I can and get 8-9 hours of sleep a night.”
Last year he also started doing triathlons, despite never owning a bike or taking swimming lessons in his life. Dabbling in other sporting disciplines has helped him keep his fitness up and injuries away.
“I think the cycling definitely helps with the slow ultras as you build the cardio hours up, while not overdoing it on the body. I can do a six-hour ride in the first half of the day, and a run in the second half of the day as cycling is a low-impact sport,” Ixel says. “I used to run 160km a week but now I feel like I can run 100-120km and add four to six hours on the bike, and it’s a lot less impact on the body while getting similar fitness results.”
As Ixel continues to work towards his goals, he knows the road will not be smooth, but his drive, work ethic and humility will certainly get him over any bumps along the way.
“I face a lot of challenges with my business, with my training, with my races,” he says. “I think overall I remind myself how lucky I am to be able to run, race and work for myself. This really helps to bring it back, to see that at the end of the day, no challenge is a big deal.”