I am still amazed how quickly after the Nepal earthquake the local trail running community managed to organize charity run to raise funds for the earthquake relief…
I never hesitated when it came to taking part in this event. But as I don’t race in these hot months in Hong Kong I planned to make this run part of my training.
It was 13km and it felt just about right as the back-to-back run on Sunday at this stage of my training. For some reason perhaps for the first time ever I did not bother to check what the route is. What can it be, right ? Charity run, only 13km, Shing Mun reservoir… some loops around for an hour or so, and we are done… Yea, right .
This was a cool concept. Find two team mates holding the same passport as yourself, form a team and have race against other teams on some fun Lantau trails.
Concept was cool but finding 2 team mates with same passport was mission close to impossible for me. But not wanting to miss out on all the fun I explored some other options. And one of the self proclaimed race directors announced that teams coming from other planets of our solar system will be given wild card entries (suggesting for example Uranus) and I was all for it.
Still I had to find team mates. I managed to convince a guy called Vince that he also is from Uranus. He in turn recruited lady called Rachel and Team Uranus was born.
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…
A year ago I spent the night in Pak Mong and Ngong Ping check points helping with the Translantau timekeeping. It was a very interesting experience seeing the tired runners approaching the Ngong Ping CP in the early morning hours. Some fresh and eager to push on, some destroyed already with two thirds of the course still ahead. I guess it was then when the idea of signing up for this race was planted somewhere into my brain.
Translantau map and elevation profile – beast of a course
Then later in the year I signed up for the TDS (because CCC was not enough ). And I thought that it might be good to end the winter season with a tough run – already as a part of preparation for the TDS. So I signed up with no goal other than to finish. I had no special race plan, I haven’t done any recce and I had no specific time target.
Then came new year and as I had a spot at both HK100 and Translantau100 I set myself the target to finish all four Hong Kong 100km races in 2015.
The idea to do this race as a daddy and son team was born a year ago during this race. We were helping at the Chi Ma Wan checkpoint and seeing all sorts of couples having fun day out on trails we decided to join the fun a year on. And so we signed up as Team Awoo Boys.
I was a bit a afraid that I will spoil the fun thanks to my pre-HK100 injury. But while still not in a shape for any serious training I was relatively OK to go for some training hikes before this race. We did a recce of the course one weekend, cool Mt. Parker hike and bushwhack the other and some mellow hike to Stanley on the final weekend before the race.
Awoo Boys Training for LBC Valentine’s Day Race
I thought that we would mostly hike it and add a bit of jog here and there depending how we feel. Based on our 14-20km practice hikes we set ourselves a sub-3hours goal.
Junior however had other ideas. First it was not easy to convince him that starting right at the front ahead of the fast runners is not a smart idea. Then once the race was on I had hard time slowing him down on the initial climb and the descent that followed. I kept shouting “slow down, you are too fast” and “keep your power for the climbs” as well as some trail running safety instructions concerning stealthily overtaking people that are 3-4 times his body mass. His Eagerness obviously was not too happy that we allowed so many people to pass us while I was showing no interest in passing other.
I was really looking forward to this one. And I really wanted the golden dude I missed out on last year by about half an hour. The preparations were going well. I felt I am in good form. I believed I had a chance to get that golden dude. But then exactly a week before the race I went for a final training run, first in Hong Kong after almost 2 weeks of stubborn training in freezing snowy Europe. After about 10 great kilometers on the trail came brief lapse in concentration followed by stumble and tumble somewhere under Violet Hill. Nothing spectacular, nothing unusual on uneven trails. Knowing I will fall I tried subconsciously to pick the best landing spot. I managed that pretty well with only minor scratches on the palms of my hands. But unfortunately I had a plastic UD bottle in my front bottle carrier. And that bottle had pretty hard lid screwed on. And that lid ended up between the hard ground and my left ribcage. And that hurt like hell. The impact was pretty strong as it totally disconnected the lid from the bottle. I picked myself up and went on. I had to as no matter which way I turned I had at least 4-5 km till some point with public transport. I somehow managed to continue for further 10km over Violet, Jardines and Siu Ma Shan all the way home. I announced my arrival with words “I am in pain”. I thought that’s it for me and HK100…
Two years the 26km version of this Lantau race was my first proper trail race. This time last year I shocked myself and while doing my first 50km race I won my first trail running trophy. So me and this race we do have some history. And the history was to continue in 2014.
The 2014 edition however came with a tiny change – a brand new course. I was a bit disappointed as I liked the old route – the combo of three hills and the long speedy Chi Ma Wan loop. But old route or new route I was determined to go for it. Not without some recce runs though.
From the race map I guessed that part of the race would follow LT70 route. I only had 2 Saturdays to spare so I decided to recce the beginning and the end hoping that the middle part will not throw in any nasty surprise. After my 2 recce runs I knew that this would be one of the toughest races Hong Kong has to offer… My plan was simple – start easy to save the legs and the energy for the last 20km.
I have been playing around with the idea of going for the OTW myself this year. But at the time when the applications were to be submitted I was not sure if I will be up for it (pain in the hip area). I skipped the registration process and told myself that I may consider joining some team later on. But in the meantime I signed up for other races and doing OTW no longer made sense for me. The plus side was – I was free to do the support again.
When the HKTR Team Force 1 announced their plan to conquer the 100km I was quickly up for it. I still had great memories from 2013 and I was not going to miss out on another great day (and night) out.
The support team preparations were not as meticulous as year ago. And with few former supporters taking on the OTW challenge themselves this year the support team was a bit smaller in size. But Dom took charge of the planning and together with the team worked out a solid support schedule. I made myself available for the Shatin Pass to Route Twisk section. I must admit though that I was a bit worried when I found out that I was to be the only mule for the team for these almost 30km. And my worry level spiked when only 3 days ahead of Trailwalker a weird pain struck my right foot while walking in the MTR. There were all the signs of incoming PF issues. I did not want to start any panic. But when the pain did not go away I made the team aware that I have some issues. Having some back up in case my foot deserts me sounded like a wise idea. I felt relief when Dom offered to run a bit further his bit while knowing that Vic also could be available a section earlier. At the same time I mobilized all the “screw the pain” gear – tape, foam roller, ice pack, arched flip flops – making sure I will be in decent shape. This combo somehow worked. The pain was still there but more so while I was sitting and tended to go away while I was moving. It looked like I would be good to go.
I am focusing only on handful of races this racing season and I have been looking forward to this one for weeks. A year ago this was my first foray into the ultra territory. This year my plan was to a) not to get lost like last year and b) improve my time.
Before race start
I set myself what I thought was a realistic target – sub 12hours finish. I prepared a simple table with splits from last year to help me to keep track of my relative pace. The idea was to finish the first 2 stages around the same time as last year and then pick up the pace on stages 3 and 4.
It was not easy to get back to training after UTMB CCC . It took me a week to go for a first jog and then another lazy week or so before I was both mentally and physically ready to push again. This all left me more less 2 weeks to train and 1 week to taper as a preparation for Moontrekker. And all this in the seemingly neverending hot and humid Hong Kong summer. I was really glad that my first race of Hong Kong racing season will be a night one with moon rather than sun dominating the sky.
The new finish point in Pui O meant that the race would be about 3km longer than last year. I was not really sure what target time should I set for myself on this new course. But recalling my 2013 crampfest I was sort of hoping to improve and finish the longer course somewhere close to my last year time on the shorter course. As the next few hours would show I was way too optimistic. I also hoped to score some points for the Team UCAN in my first race as a team member in the HK Trail Racing League.
With Echo and Shane before the start