My legs were cramping after the first 10 kilometers of the race owing to the long climb and the unforgiving heat at high noon. That’s when I went on to dig deep and looked for some mental toughness to find a way to hold on and finish the race.
When I registered a few months ago, I checked the map and saw 25K race with about 600+ meters of elevation or so I thought. That looks like a rolling course spread out over 25 kilometers so even if it was my busy season, I joined at an impulse. I had banked most my mileage on January before the rush for our board meeting in February. So a few days before the race, I checked the site again and I may have overlooked something, as it turns out, it’s more than 1,200 meters of elevation gain. Whaaaaat???? I shifted to panic mode and started learning about the route elevation along the course. A few days away from all those sleepless number crunching and I’m up for a tough course.
I had modest expectation and even finishing beyond cut-off would be fine by me. I even brought a headlamp and a Powerbank in my Amihan Rizen Vest for that eventuality. So from work mode, I had to take my flight to Hong Kong the day before to claim my kits and race the next day. We had a gun start of 10:30 am so I did have a good sleep and a long bus ride from Tung Chung to Mui Woo. Next part was to warm up for the race as I’ve been having problems with my shin lately when I don’t warm up. It was on at exactly 10:30 am and my plan was to have an even split and worked within the 18 minutes per kilometer to meet cut off.
At gun start, I went at a running pace just to stay within the pack for the first kilometers and take advantage of the road segment of the race. As we entered the trail section, it was mostly uphill with some flat areas. I went at a steady pace and just went consistent without stopping. The first few kilometers had us enjoying the view of the ocean as we were running along the coastline of Mui Woo. The moderate rolling terrains lasted until kilometer 6 at Shap Long at the aid station before the race shifted to a slightly steeper climb until the kilometer 9 and 10. I started also using my poles just to distribute the load between my legs and my core.
It was hot and humid as we started the race but it even got hotter by noon time. It was a rolling descent from kilometer 10-16 but somehow, this part was mentally tough for me. From the heat, I’m starting to cramp up so I had to stop and have some salt, keep myself hydrated and apply cooling spray on my legs. Glad I was ready for that part. It’s surprising how much you can fit in an Amihan Rizen vest. I still continued on a moving pace as it was you’d feel the hot and humid environment every time you stop. It was a mental battle as my calf muscles was on the verge of cramping. I got a relief when I had crampfix by the 13th kilometer. This was also the part that my brain was having a meaty debate on whether to pursue the race though in any case I still need to go to the check point area.
While it was a descent, I was moving slower since I know I’d lose more time when I have cramps along the route. The time felt like forever even though I was consistently moving on the trail. It was a good thing Hoka Speedgoat 3 felt comfortable over the long stretches. There were also several stops trying as I still had to deal with some cramping. I finally just visualized that I need to hit the aid station and have coke and a good meal. The Checkpoint at Chi Ma Wan was in kilometer 16 and the first thing I looked for was soda and banana, there was none so I settled for sports drink and water. I rested a few minutes and applied cooling cream on my calves as the next part was the long uphill climb.
Kilometer 17 to 18 was the longest climb with the first half of the 17th kilometer being the steepest part at 30% gradient. Hello Stairs!!! I have enough time to spare to meet the cutoff time so I took the next set of climbs a lot more comfortable with rest breaks after several assaults. I was back at a steady pace after the steeper part of the climb but I had to divide my effort once again as the climbs felt endless approaching kilometer 18. There was one set of stairs that led to another then another… It was such a cycle of expecting the end of the climb and not getting what you want until the trails went downhill after kilometer 18.
It was a technical descent, which still requires a lot of time but at least, I’m not up against gravity this time. So I had to endure a mix of rocky stair descent and dirt grounds. At kilometer 20, I was back at a more consistent pace at a better and more tolerable terrain so I tried to speed up heading back to the old trails and eventually the finish line.
It does look funny that I was so exhausted even to hold on to the finisher tarp. All my gels, water, energy drink was all out but I guess I’m just glad to finish still a long while before cutoff. I had so many reasons to fail but I choose to slug it out and found a way to finish.