This was to be my A race of the Hong Kong season. After finally getting my golden dude last year I set myself sub 15hours target for this year.
My training went well and I felt I am up to the challenge. I felt I am capable of sub 15 performance. The question was if will be able to do it on the day…
Couple of weeks before the race a mailing arrived notifying us that the race will keep that alternative finish route applied in those freezing conditions last year. As this not exactly common route down from Tai Mo Shan I decided to an easy recce of that bit a week before the race – as a final pre-race outing. It was a very easy jog hike on the last 15-16km of the race route. I noticed during that run some soreness in my right foot but I paid no attention to it. It was nothing different for an ache here and there that we experience on our runs – the kind of stuff that comes and then few minutes later it goes away we forget about it. I finished that jog-hike with no issues, happy knowing that the new ending is not that difficult and ready for the race.
Then when I woke up the next day my foot was really hurting, was swollen and featuring a colourful bruise. During the week the swelling and bruising went away the pain was still there. By Wednesday – Thursday it was getting better so I was cautiously optimistic about making the race. Then on Friday morning it started to hurt more, afternoon it felt better…
I haven’t tried to run for the whole week so I had no idea at all what running will feel like. I went to the start still undecided if I would actually go for it or not. After trying to jog for 15-20 meters I almost made up my mind to opt for DNS… But after some negotiation with myself and out of respect for all those people who could not get a place in this race I decided to at least give it a try. I could always turn back after few hundred meters … So I started.
The first few steps were really painful but surprisingly after a while I could run relatively comfortably. So I kept on going even after we turned from the road to the trail after that first 1km long dash. I tried to push that foot out of my mind and focus on running. This approach worked. I was running in good pace, chatting with few people around me. It was a positive start.
When we returned back on the road the pain came back. But soon it went away again. It seemed that this would be the story of my day. It was not ideal but at this point it looked like I may be able to manage this race after all. My pace was good – as I found out afterwards bang on the plan – so I kept on going.
When I reached the end of dam I grabbed a banana and kept on going not thinking about the foot anymore. I could push uphill. Downhills I was taking subconsciously a bit easier but overall I felt good. The troubles returned on the first beach – running on the soft sand was really hurting. But once I was back on the trail on the climb to Sai Wan I felt good again. So I kept on going. I made very quick stop at Ham Tin just refiling my bottles and grabbing some food. I then pushed on towards Wong Shek. By now I actually felt quite good. It seemed I knew how to manage the foot. And as bonus I arrived in Wong Shek feeling rather fresh and well ahead of my last year time. Vic helped me to refill here. I grabbed bananas and went quickly on towards Hoi Ha. I was walking at first (while eating that banana) and chatting with Fernando. As soon as that banana was gone I started running again. I was a bit worried about this section – it is quite rocky and technical – not ideal for my condition. It was not too bad though and before I realized I was refuelling again in Hoi Ha.
Happy days, I was now seriously enjoying my day and pushing towards my sub 15h goal. The next section towards Yung Shue O was uneventful. I relaxed my pace little bit – I knew my pace was good and saving up some energy for later on would not do any harm. I ran relatively comfortably all the runable parts and even with some (still bearable) pain the foot I was enjoying the day.
When I arrived in Yung Shue O check point I was quite happy. Body felt great, my time was sort where I wanted it to be and the foot pain was under control. I noticed that the CP location was a bit different from the previous years and with a brand new (awesome) crew from Free to Run. I spent as little time as possible here – just refilling one of my bottles and grabbing a banana and some chocolate. On the way out I ran into Virginie – she told me that Nic is only about a minute or so ahead of me. That was good piece of information as I had Nic in my view most of the race. I was not really trying to follow anybody but it was good to know that I am more less on the same pace as someone else who seemed to be having a really good day.
I started running again right at the beginning of the trail – after the short road climb. All was still OK but when crossing the stream I started to feel my foot. It was quickly getting worse once the uphill parts came. Ignoring it was no longer possible so I had to start compensating a bit. And this is probably where my race felt apart. I was still rather OK when we re-joined Mac but from that moment the climbs were hurting and the downhills were hurting even more. On the descents I had to find some very strange landing style and this not exactly natural style quickly resulted in cramping. I could not push uphill and I could only walk downhill. By the time I began the final push to Rooster Hill I knew that this is it. I could probably try and push on beyond Kei Ling Ha but there was no point. While I was still on for my target time I knew that after Kei Ling Ha I would have to slow down significantly and the only way forward would be painful walk. Also not knowing what my issue was I did not want to risk any further damage to my foot. So I slowly made my way down to CP, greeted my family support crew and after few minutes of wandering around I made that call and pulled out of the race.
With the benefit of hindsight I probably should not have started. But I am glad I did. At least I have no regrets and no thought like “maybe I could have done it if I tried”. I did try and I know that on the day it was mission impossible.
I haven’t DNFd for several years but this season I haven’t finished any of 2 races I started in Hong Kong. I took this as a clear message that it is time to take a break, rest up and get fit for future adventures. I know for sure that I will not be ready for the 9Dragons race few weeks from now. I also decided to pull out of the other race I had planned for this season – the Translantau100. So the season is over with only one race finish – but that was the one that counted . Until next season then.