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Post-Race: HK-100

All along, even up till moments before the race, I was ambivalent about the Hong Kong-100(k). While I was stoked about the race itself, my training since getting into the race through lottery in September had been plagued by injuries. I was very much out of training for two months till November. The two months leading up to the race, I had but two weeks with weekly mileage above 50. Still building on base mileage, my shin splints poked up its nasty head last week. In spite of all that, I still had hopes to tough this thing out. For the first time, I even wrote a list of motivations to keep me moving and promised myself to go through the list before I would call quit. Part of my list includes:
  • Running for Ellis: because I get to be alive and well to do it;
  • How do I want to remember the race after tomorrow?
  • "If you can take it, you can make it!"
The more I thought about the race, however, the more pressure I put on myself. I am so glad that I schedule the race to be at the front end of my time here. I want to rid of that weight bearing on me!

My sister and I at race start
While still entertaining the thought to finish, the plan at the start was to make it as far as I could. Unfortunately, the plan fell apart pretty quickly. The travelling and lack of sleep in the last two days took a toll on my body. I was tried... at Check Point 1, merely six miles into the race! Everybody moved through the aid station very quickly. As much as I wanted to linger, I continued on. 

A year ago, I sampled a portion of the Maclehose Trail. The east-west trail is 100 km long by itself, running across New Territories. Though deviates from it at times, the majority of the race is run on this trail. We started on the east end of the trail, which starts in a country park on Sai Kung peninsula, and continues westward after almost circumferencing the peninsula. See the interactive map here.

High Island Reservoir

The trail consists of both pavement, (a lot of) stone steps, and technical, rocky, single-tracks. It runs through some of Hong Kong's highest peaks, valleys, coastlines, and strings together places and villages. Unlike Charlotte, there isn't much rolling, just long ascent and descent. Even with hands-on-knees kind of ascent, the descent was what I struggled with the most. The scenery certainly helped to distract myself from focusing on my stiffening legs and body. 

Worth mentioning is the Asian-flared aid stations, offering egg sandwiches, rice balls, and instant cup noodles. No gels. Sports drink was something called "Pocari," a volunteer told me. A google search shows this, if you are interested. Temperature yesterday was between high-50s and mid-60s and sunny. Dehydrated, I chucked a whole bottle oblivious to what it was. It has a taste similar to coconut water, yet different. Perhaps a mix between coconut water and Heed?

Reaching Check Point 2 at 21k, I hate to admit that I was coming to terms that finishing might be out of reach. But I knew I would hate to remember this race only as a DNF, or let it be defined by how far I made, rather than the journey and experience. From this point on, it'd be about enjoying the scenery, keep moving forward (without causing permanent damages), and savoring these moments. Thankfully, my sluggish jog actually gave my shins proper time to warm up and they ceased to bother me for awhile. I took it as a gift from above and continued on.

With 1800 runners representing 50 countries, I was never alone on the course even as the crowd settled in various paces and thinned out. There were at least 3 or 5 runners both in front/sight and behind me. With each surprise of how relatively well I was still climbing came the reality check of pain with each descent. But, look at this:
Going up Sai Wan Shan, looking at Sharp Peak (Photo by: Cesare Romani)
The photo above captures much of the characteristics of the first half of the course: Up a mountain, down to a beach, across some sand, up again we go. At around 40 km, we hit a long stretch of flat pavement, weaving in and out villages and grass fields. That, felt like forever. I was also convinced that I looked like a running Frankenstein if I could watch myself from behind. Finally, I rolled into Check Point 4 at 45 km. If I were to continue onto Check Point 5, where drop bags were, I would have bagged another peak and crossed the 50K mark. After briefly stopping at the check point, a short-lived attempt to continue was made. Hopping maybe but 10 yards, I turned around and threw in the towel. 

Check Point 4 @ 45 km
Last night, I saw a photo of one of the last participants finishing the race at 30 hours. I have nothing but tremendous respect for everyone who finishes this beast. What determination! It's now been two days after the race; as I have started the race with ambivalence, I remained the same. Although, with peace, gratitude, and inspiration this time. I hope my DNF will pay off in a long run by keeping me off injury reserve and providing an opportunity to get back into proper training. It was a beautiful day for an adventure, that's how I will remember this race.

Photo by Andre


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