This was a short but very special race for me. Firstly our company was one of partners of the race – we supplied the race tees for the runners and volunteers. And I ran this race with my soon to be 9 years old son – as a team – in the family edition. My racing season was officially over after Translantau but I thought that 8km with my junior running buddy would be fun.
My son was taking this race seriously and obviously hoped we can finish good somewhere near the top of the order. I tried to keep his expectations down – after all there would surely be much older kids than him. My other concern was the weather. After our recce run I was sure that he can handle the course without too much trouble but late April heat and humidity could be a factor…
The “fun” started the night before. Junior was way too excited and could not sleep . With the race starting early and rather far away (Clear Water Bay) we had to wake up very early. So not much sleep for us. I am used to this from my races but it was not a good beginning for the small one.
Then race day came and it was humid and rather hot one. We managed to get up on time, found a taxi and arrived to the start area on time to get ready and see the full and half distance runner to get on their way too.
Little warm up for us and we were ready to go. For some reason that had something to do with last minute instructions from police the race started few minutes ahead of schedule. We blasted off like there was no tomorrow. I reminded the little one to worry only about his own pace and not about those around him but he had none of it. There were few other teams with bigger and very fit kids around us and he simply decide that they shall not pass.
We were on the initial uphill road section in a group of three teams and quite ahead of others. I glanced on my watch and seeing the solid sub 5min/km pace I knew this probably will not end well . We soon went over the crest of this small hill and obviously as we were now going a bit downhill the pace picked up further. I again tried to slow down my buddy but no luck. So we kept on pushing. We kept this pace even after the right turn away from the main road.
There some first signs of future trouble started to show. The initial determination to push on the entire road section was no longer so strong once the small climbs appeared. We made use of the climbs and slower pace up to cool down and drink some of the water we had with us. The two strongest teams pulled away a bit but we still had them in our sight. We somehow managed to keep the average sub 5mins pace on the entire 4km road section of the race. On one hand I was amazed that my son managed to keep this pace for such a long distance and in those conditions. But on the other hand I was pretty sure that very soon we will pay price for this fast start.
And we did once we left the road and turned to the trail. This was basically one hill we had to climb over. We had no issues with it 2 weeks earlier on our recce run. But this time the body language of my son was pretty clear – that 4km blast took a lot out of him. We started the climb but the pace was not there. I tried to encourage him but it was not really working. We kept on climbing but it was now a struggle for my team mate. Once we got out of the tree covered section it became even worse. He simply had no energy left. We paused a bit to recharge and cool down allowing several teams to pass us and few more to close on us. At this moment however the only goal was to get to the finish.
The warm and humid conditions were now also taking the toll and I had to make sure that he does not overheat especially when some warning signs were already there. I used my water bottle to cool him down. We stopped often for quick cool down breaks. This way we made it to the top of the hill.
My son is usually flying on the downhill and often I can’t keep up with him. But this time he listened to my advise and took it easier. When we started to get closer to the car park near the finish area I could see some signs of recovery. We still had the final approximately 1km long “family walk” section to do and I asked him if he wants to try to run it (so we can get over with this race faster).
He said “no!” but once we actually got on that final trail he started to jog. In no time he was shouting back “it is OK, I can run” and he disappeared somewhere down the trail. I only caught up with him again when the downhill turned into a climb. From here until the finish we would run every flat and downhill bit and fast hike all the uphill bits.
We finished after about 1h16mins. It was about 16 mins over my son’s dream result, about 6 mins slower than I though could be realistic target for him and more less the same time we did on our easy paced recce…
At the finish line my son recovered very quickly and went on helping with race and delivering water to struggling runner for few more hours. I could not make him leave. I was a bit worried that this tough experience may dampen his passion for trail running. But it did not take long before he told me “daddy, next year we have to do under 1 hour” .