This was the fifth edition of the race and my second time participating in it. The first time was in 2013 (Part 1, Part 2). It was a race worth going back again so I decided to do it again this year.
This year was the first time the orgainisers introduced the ballot system due to the overwhelming number of runners. The ballot was in Sep 2014 with the results released a week later. Luckily enough, I managed to secure a slot for the race. What followed was training my ass off so that I would not be killed by the many steps along the race route.
|On board the mini bus to Pak Tam Chung.|
During the Shinetsu Fine Mountains Trail in Sep 2014, I realised I am still very (VERY) weak at manoeuvring across upslopes and downslopes. The last 7km of the route was pure flat trail (it was not even technical) but my quads were already badly battered. I had also taken a hit to my right knee earlier in the race and it was still not good. I could only watch helplessly as other runners overtook me as I hobbled slowly back to the finish line.
I knew I need to do something to improve myself. I need more strength and endurance for the legs. Not to run faster but so that I will not die so much! I do not really like to do intervals at the track. I thought of another method which may help. Hill intervals. At Fort Canning.
1) Ultimate Direction Peter Bakwin hydration bag
2) Leki Carbonlite trekking pole
4) New Balance running top
5) 2XU long sleeve thermal compression top
6) 2XU compression bottom
7) The North Face running gloves
8) Ultimate Direction 26 ons bottles x 02
9) Arc'teryx Phase SL Crew Long Sleeve baselayer
10) The North Face Rocket beanie
11) The North Face Storm hoodie
12) Black Diamond Storm headlights x 02 and Silva Tyto red blinking light
13) Extra batteries
15) Emergency blanket
16) Extra batteries for camera
17) First aid kit
18) Sea To Summit 480ml X-mug
20) PowerMonkey for Fenix
21) Oakley running shades
22) Fenix GPS watch
23) Gorilla pod for camera (I took this out later)
|Photo credit: Hong Kong 100 Ultra Marathon|
As the time got closer to 0800Hr, we started moving closer to the start line. Ivy was beside me. I saw Alex Ang, Alex Koh and Jasmine were in front, trying to get closer to the start line. I saw Trish and Choon Poh too. Nora should be way in front nearer to the starting arch. I checked my fenix again to ensure the GPS has been locked on. I was trying to keep my composure and my mind at ease. Steve led the countdown (was that in Cantonese?!!) while everybody called out together in unison.
3 .. (Deep breathe in)
2 .. (Exhale)
1 .. (The mind draws into a blank)
We waved to the many cameras as we ran through the starting arch. The tarmac road slowly rose into an incline but everybody ran like they were on flat ground! 1km into the route, there would be a sharp right turn cutting into the trailhead and there would always be a bottleneck. Everybody around me seems to be rushing to reach the trailhead early. I tried to cut through the people in front of me as I ran. True enough, there was already a crowd at the trailhead as we arrived. It took a while to move up the trail and at least another 1 km before we could run again.
The small trail ended at around the 5km mark and we emerged into the service road of the High Island Reservoir. This was a relief for the runners as they open up and you could see people speeding up ahead. This was a very beautiful section with the big reservoir on the left and the South China Sea on our right. I maintained a slow pace for this stretch leading to the Support Point (11km) at the East Dam, even though it was road. I was trying to find my own pace and not get dragged into other runner’s race. Strong wind was blowing across the East Dam as we ran towards the Support Point (11km). Many supporters were standing at the side cheering for the runners we ran past. I reached the Support Point (11km) slight ahead of Ivy. As I poured coke into my cup and had some bananas, the volunteers were all cheering for us. I did not want to stop for too long. In lesser than 2 minutes, I was on the way again.
|Going up Sai Wan Shan.|
Weather wise, it was not as cooling as I thought it would be. The sun was glaring. I wished it were cooler.
|Reaching CP1 Ham Tin (21km).|
Photo credit: Kit Ng
|Going up Kai Gung Shan.|
|Running down towards CP5 Kei Ling Ha (52km).|
Photo credit: Fuse Choy
|Shatin Pass at night.|
Photo credit: Lao Yao
Having eaten some solid food, we found ourselves having the energy to run down Beacon Hill towards Tai Po. The overhead bridge at Tai Po Road was too familiar. I remembered by the time I was here during the 2013 race, I was reduced to dragging myself along the service roads of the reservoirs in that area. I remembered there was this guy who was sleep – running, walking zig-zag along the road from side to side instead of going straight. I remembered they always warned that this was the area infested with monkeys. Unlike those at Rifle Range Road, the monkeys here were more aggressive. Sometimes they appear in hordes. Do not let them see any food if not they will swarm towards you. I also remembered what lies ahead between where we were now and the finish line. The real show of the race was coming soon.
CP8 (83km) was at Shing Mun Reservoir. Coming out of the trail, we ran out into groups of people crowded at several BBQ pits. There was a radio at the side playing local Cantonese hits. A small group of teenagers sat in a circle at another corner singing along to the tune of the guitar played by one of them. For a moment I was wondering if they have changed the location of the CP this year and fashioned it into a BBQ party. Another local runner ran past me and called out that the CP was further down the road. Alright, there goes my BBQ chicken wing. ☹
Looking at the time, it was 15:30 into the race. I knew the difficulty of crossing Needle Hill, Grassy Hill and Tai Mo Shan ( 针草帽 ) so doing a sub18 was not a realistic aim now. A sub20 remains to be seen. From past experience, the last 10km going through Tai Mo Shan optimistically would required 2 hours for mere mortals like us. It depends on how long we take to reach CP9 Lead Mine Pass (90km). We need to keep moving.
As we were relentlessly climbing up the steps, we heard one of the Chinese participants said: “小金人要关门咯！” (The golden trophy is closing soon.) I looked at my watch and it was 15:54. I turned to him and replied with a smile: “如果你赶得及的话，你还有六分钟。” (You still have 6 minutes if you can make it.)
The climb up to Needle Hill was plain arduous. If you were to look from the sky, we were like small little marching ants painstakingly making our way up the many, many stairs. From Needle Hill, the view of numerous headlights trailing along the route, stretching far ahead of us and disappearing into the fog, was a beautiful sight. It was also a painful reminder that it was not over yet.
Yes, it had started to get foggy. I would try to run whenever it was flat or a downslope. The fog hindered our vision. I could not see clearly whether if it was a flat or an upslope. I had to rely on my feelings to make a guess and I tried to run as much as I could. Leading down to CP9 Lead Mine Pass (90km) was a long flight of stairs. I remembered during the 2013 race, by that time I was reduced to struggling step by step down the stairs. Luckily, I was still able to run down this time.
I checked the time as we reached CP9. It was 17:30. Hey, maybe we still had a chance for silver! We quickly refilled up our bottle and grabbed a few pieces of oranges and chips from the aid station. Our morale was certainly up. As long as we keep moving, there is a chance! We quickly left CP9 and started the final major climb of the race up to Tai Mo Shan, the highest mountain of Hong Kong.
We saw a guy sitting at the side, apparently too tired from all the climbing. I tried to encourage him and get him moving.
Me: Hey! Come on, let’s go. We still have a chance for silver.
The guy: You think so?
Me: Yes!!! But we must keep moving. Cannot stop.
He stood up and started to follow us. I did not know what time did he finish in the end or did he stop at the side again. Honestly, I was totally uncertain if we could get a silver. I only knew we did have a chance. A small chance that was diminishing by the second. But no matter how small it was, I would grab it.
We were totally fatigued by this time but we keep moving as fast as we could. We could not run confidently as the fog reduced our vision. Everywhere was rocks, rocks and more rocks. We kept looking for the course marker to ensure we were on the right route. Occasionally, we would see the headlight from the runners in front and that gave us some comfort.
That climb took us forever. Finally, we reached the tarmac road that led us up to the top of Tai Mo Shan. Once we passed the weather station, we started running. It was 4km more downslope to the finish line. Everything hurts but we just ran. (I am surprised I was still able to run.) We overtook other runners as we tried to absorb in the sights of the final stretch of the route. Randall was able to go faster than me and he disappeared ahead.
Very soon, the lights and sound from the finish line could be heard. I took a deep breath and made a dash for it.
|Photo Credit: Vins Fong|
It was a wonderful race organsied by Steve and Janet. There were beautiful beaches and mountains. Big stations with lots of different kinds of food. A very big thank you to the many volunteers who help to make the race experience even more memorable.
Looking back at the race, there were a few points to note for myself.
- Although I did not manage to do a sub18, I think I managed my pace for the first half of the race well. As for the sub18 .. errm .. that would need pretty much more hard work! A lot, a lot of hard work.
- I need to refine my race nutrition strategy and see if I can make it simpler.
- I lack the drive when doing ascends up technical climbs. Maybe somebody needs to entice me with some egg tarts in front of me.
- We stayed too long at CP5. Much longer than what was necessary.
Overall, it was a very good race experience. Will I return again? Certainly. HK100 is a good race for people who wish to try running overseas. Good scenery, well orgainsed, plenty of food and the cut off times are not throat cutting. Having said that, it is still a very tough race. After the race, I know of a few friends who had culture shocks at HK100. I guess all of us are just too used to MacRitchie Reservoir.
To Randall, thank you for being around. I pulled you and you pushed me and it somehow worked out for 64km from CP3 to the finish line. Hahaha .. ☺
Till we meet again, Hong Kong. I will be back.
|Crossing Sai Wan Shan.|