I haven’t finished an ultra in Hong Kong since 2016 Translantau100. Seems that since I completed my HK Grand Slam in 2015/2016 season the luck was not my side, at least not in Hong Kong. Yes, I have completed UTMB and La Diagonale des Fous since then. But I DNFed 2016 LT70 (not yet recovered fully from UTMB), 2017 HK100 (because of silly injury a week before the race) and thanks to shin splints my 50/50 9Dragons attempt last year only lasted the first 50 miles.
My summer calf injury did not allow me to do almost any running the whole summer. My Diagonale des Fous training consisted mostly of hiking up the hills and jogging them down – no speedwork at all. This somehow worked fine for a slow long hilly endurance event but I knew the fast HK100 would be totally different story. Especially as due to post Diagonale recovery I only had about 6-7 weeks of proper training time for this race.
Unlike last year I did not set myself any specific time target. My primary goal was to finish the 100k race after almost 2 years of this not happening to me. Secondary target was to do it under 16 hours to get that golden buddy trophy.
My strategy was to pace myself and make sure I survive well the first fast 52k before we hit the hills. My watch was on but I was not really checking it. It was run to feel race for me. Enjoying the surroundings and not pushing too much. As I found out afterwards I was not exactly relaxing though – I was running at my HK100 PR pace although it definitely did not feel like that.
Everything went well until about 2-3km from CP2 in Wong Shen when I felt few signs of cramping in my calves. It was not that bad though and being close to the CP I did not worry too much. I relaxed my pace a bit and reached the CP feeling pretty well. I did not waste too much time at the CP. I quickly refilled my bottles and went on. I grabbed an orange to eat while moving up the road after the CP but unfortunately I dropped it into before I could taste it. So to rubbish bin it went and I had to wait till Hoi Ha for that orange I craved for…
Other than this things went well for a while. But somewhere half way between CP2 and CP3 the cramps hit again and this time it was not pretty. I had to slow down quite a bit and at places I had to resort to walking to make those cramps go away. I don’t usually cramp so this was not an easy thing for me to handle. Still determined to continue I shuffled on to Hoi Ha. There at the CP I took a bit more time than I planned. I downed 2 bolws of miso, finally ate that orange, refilled my bottles and went on walking up the road.
This seemed to help as once we hit the trail again I could run without much discomfort all the way to CP4 at Yung Shue O – although I did switch to walking on the uphill bits to preserve the legs for later. CP4 was stop was a quick one – refill, some food and keep on going. I was actually looking forward to the hilly bits that start on this section expecting the cramping to go away for goods once the pace slows down. The exact opposite happened. Any bigger step up – cramp. Any downhill bit even worse cramps. The last downhill before the Rooster Hill climb was seriously bad. Couple of times I ended up facing the wrong way as a result of both legs seizing… Luckily I had the crampfix handy. Unfortunately it only provides the immediate relief not a long term solution. But at least temporary the cramps let go and I could keep on moving. The Rooster Hill climb was reasonably OK although minor cramps still hit me here and there. But the final descent from Rooster Hill to Kei Ling Ha was terrible. I could not run at all. Any attempt to jog resulted into immediate painful cramp and after a while I could barely even walk down the hill.
I arrived in CP5 totally battered and in pain but still hoping to be able to continue. I took my time to rest and see what the legs will say. I set myself a limit – 30mins – to make up my mind if I abandon or continue. But not much has changes. I was cramping even walking around the CP. After talking with few friends around and my wife who came to support me here I started to incline towards the DNF option. Then when the next cramp hit I imagined having to suffer through this on the longest section between two CPs… I was not ready to do that. Also with some major challenges coming up I decided not to take any silly injury risks. I made the DNF call… And that was it. For the second year in a row my HK100 ended in Kei Ling Ha after barely 52km. The DNF streak in Hong Kong continues …
Next stop – 9Dragons