I originally signed up for the shorter 26km version of this race. But then I realized that due to my planned December travels I would not have that many opportunities for longer training runs before the HK100 race. And so at the last minute I switched my registration to the full 50km distance. This was to be my first 50km race and the second longest distance I ever did (after LT70).
My plan was to take this race as a training run – start easy, maintain comfortable pace, do not care what others around me are doing. I was quite familiar with most of the route. I did the short version a year ago therefore I knew all the major uphills and downhills and most (although not all) of the additional Chi Ma Wan loop I knew from the Moontrekker.
It was an early 7am start but I am quite OK with that. I am quite used to early Saturday morning runs. I decided not go crazy on the initial road section even as it meant to get a bit stuck in the bottleneck once we hit the single track steep climb after the first kilometer. It was a long race and I had no intention to waste too much energy sprinting on first 1000 meters…
I felt good climbing up to Yi Pak Au and Lau Fa Tung, maintained steady pace and kept overtaking lots of people without pushing too hard. I enjoyed running the Lo Fu Tau trail section without anybody overtaking me (as far as I can remember). I knew however that once the downhills come there will be people passing me and that’s exactly what happened. I did not really care, after all this was a training run for me and I was not about to risk any injury. I took it easy also on the concrete sections and this was the first time I registered two guys passing me – I would keep trading places with them for the rest of the day. Me passing them on climbs, them passing me on descents.
After about 9km begin the biggest climb of the day – the 4km and about 660m of elevation gain up to Li Fa Shan. I was surprised relatively effortless this climb was for me. I made it up still fresh and happy and started my descent down towards the checkpoint. As expected few people overtook me on the way down but I already got used to this, so no sweat. I made it safely to the Chi Ma Wan entrance and begun the 15km run around the peninsula. I really enjoyed this part. I kept steady pace between 6:30-7:30min/km and managed to catch and overtake several people on my way. I refilled my water bag and dropped a electrolyte tablet into my water bottle and ate a banana at the checkpoint at the end of the shorter Chi Ma Wan loop and then repeated the same 10km at the Chi Ma Wan exit.
A sweeper collecting the ribbons who I met on my way back up towards Nam Shan told me that I am currently running in 15th place. I am not sure how accurate that info was but it really propelled me forward. Unfortunately somewhere around here calf cramps started to affect me. I had to slow down and shorten my stride a bit more. It helped to manage the situation but I knew that the rest of the will surely be interesting.
I reached the checkpoint still cramping so I took my time eating the banana and dropping another electrolyte tablet into my freshly refilled water bottle. I did a bit of stretching and went on towards Mui Wo. Cramps kept announcing themselves from time to time but I could keep on going although not as quickly as I would like to. But now when we were sharing the route with the 26 km runners I begun to overtake those guys and it helped to keep my spirits up.
Just before Mui Wo and caught up with one runner and stupidly followed him into the village instead of making the left turn. Smart people should learn from previous mistakes but I managed to repeat exactly same one as I mad at the same spot last year … It was only about 400m detour but I wasted perhaps 5 minutes here. Once I realized where I am I turned around and rejoined the route. I could see several people that I overtook earlier on the road ahead. They must have wondered where the hell am I coming from when I overtook them again.
At least thanks to this detour I forgot about the cramping for a while and I ran at sub 6min/km pace until the start of the road climb. I was beginning to feel pretty tired by now. But I had no cramp issues while climbing up so I could keep good pace up the hill. The problem was that cramps came back on flats and downhills. The Lo Fu Tau section was interesting. I kept easily passing people on the way up but struggled badly anytime I should pick up the pace and run. But the finish line was near and I tried to forget about the pain and kept on going.
When I started the final descent from Yi Pak Au down to Discovery Bay I tested a new approach – to hit the ground hard with my feet. And it worked, the impact shocks managed to keep the cramps away. Well until I caught up with slower descending lady on very technical single track section at the final parts of the descent. I had make sudden stop combined with swift turn and this resulted in massive spasm in both my calves. Quick stretching helped to relieve the pain and off I was again. I still managed to miss an arrow and turn right on the catchwater instead of going pretty much straight. I wasted another minute or so before finding my way. Now I was down in DB and knowing I was just about going to miss out on sub-7 hours finish and having nobody ahead or behind me I jogged to the finish line. I crossed the line at 7h04m13s (on my Garmin) happy to have completed my first 50km race.
The most exciting part was yet to come though. One of the organizers was calling my number. When she found me she told me – “You won your category!” I haven’t won anything since I was 16 or 17 so this was quite a shock. I was cramping badly when standing on the podium barely able to survive the photo taking. But I tried to enjoy it, winning races does not happen to me every day :-). The only regret I have is getting lost twice. Without that I could have made it below 7 hours.