2016 LT70 – Finding out like DNF tastes after long long time

I had this plan not to sign up for any race until after I am done with UTMB. That would in effect mean there would be no races after UTMB for me till end of 2016. And that was not a bad idea. It was actually a good plan. So I skipped Moontrekker, OTW, TNF. But when the registrations opened for LT70 back in April I could not resist. I signed up leaving the decision “to run or not to run” till later.

My post UTMB recovery was going slow. I took quite solid break in September and come October I was back in training.

The training was strange. I felt great one day and totally empty another. I enjoyed being on the hills but I could feel that I am definitely far from being ready for another race. Still I decided to give it a try and see how I feel on the day. If nothing else it would be a good assessment of my current condition.

The day was hot as it always is on LT70 day. If I was going to get anywhere I knew I must take it easy at the beginning.

So I started easy. I walked most of the initial climb to Nam Shan, chatting with other easy starting people around me like Brendan, Dwyfor, TR. We jogged only on the flattish bits. I could see that the master pacer John Ellis was only a bit ahead of us at that point walking up as well. No point going faster that John…

Once we hit the trail going up to Sunset Peak I settled into comfortable pace and kept going up. I was in good spirits. Julien, Dwyfor, Brendan were all still around and moving at what felt like just about the right pace – although significantly slower than my pace last year.

When we got a bit higher up the hill clouds covered the blue skies and the breeze created this deceiving feeling that it is not that hot… Well it still was and I could feel it again once we descended down to Pak Kung Au. But other than that I felt OK running down from Sunset Peak. I thought I am handling the heat reasonably well.

I felt pretty good going up Lantau Peak. The overcast and breezy weather sure helped, we even had some brief drizzle. There were quite a few people ahead of me having some tough time going up. It was not my intention to push and pass people on this climb but I ended up passing quite a few.

Then I got up to Lantau Peak and experienced the first signs of trouble. I felt a cramp in my right hamstring. That is really rare for me. I had to slow down and I mostly walked down to Ngong Ping. The lower I was getting the more I felt the heat too. I was not in a good place. All of a sudden CP1 at Ngong Ping seemed like nice place to end the race …

Nia scanned my chip and asked me how is it going. I remember replying something along the lines “this is going to be either very long or very short day for me”… That is how I felt. I planned just to grab a banana and keep moving ahead without stopping here. I planned brief stop at 7/11 at the Ngong Ping village instead to get some cold drinks and do all my bottle refilling at the same time. I did that Ngong Ping thing as planned. But before that I spent some time at the CP1 too refilling my bottles, eating few slices of watermelons and some bananas while thinking whether it makes any sense to continue.

Finally I decided to keep going for a bit longer. The refreshment at 7/11 helped a bit more. The downhill road section that followed was quite OK. Once back on trail I made a short pit stop before starting the climb. One reason was because I needed to, the other was to give myself a short break between running quickly downhill and climbing. I wanted to make sure I do not carry that momentum and start that uphill too fast…

The first hill and first downhill were totally fine. After easy pace up I enjoyed the jog down towards the next climb. Somewhere here I passed TR (he flew by me on the descent from Lantau Peak).

The next climb was much tougher in that heat. I still got up OK but on the following descent I felt that going on and finishing the whole race would not be smart. My post UTMB recovery is already slow enough. Struggling through these 70K would be possible but it would add extra time to my recovery. I was already thinking ahead to HK100 – my A race this season. So I decided to keep going to Tai O and stop there. Those 27-28 hilly kilometers would serve as a nice training run. And as a bonus I would be able to get back to the finish line and see my son finishing the kids relay later on.

So I made up my mind to DNF at Tai O and from that moment I enjoyed the rest of route. It is amazing how liberating a simple decision to stop at the next CP can be. I jogged when I wanted to jog, I walked when I wanted to walk – I actually had fun! And then when the final steep downhill to Tai O came I ran bits of it wildly like I would never do if I knew I still have 40km to go.

It was still strange feeling when I approached the CP2 realizing that this is going to be it. I am not the DNF kind of person. After some rest at the CP it was perfectly possible I would change my mind and keep on going. I needed to make sure it would not happen. So I asked the person scanning my chip to cut it off my wrist before I entered the CP. And that was is…

It was strange feeling when I arrived back to finish line on the bus. Feeling that I am not familiar with. I was already regretting the decision while at the same time knowing it was the right one.

Anyway, time to move on, make use of the next 2 months and get ready for the HK100 in January.

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