Sunday, October 28, 2012

MSIG Hong Kong 50 Race Recap

Quick recap: Somewhat miserable and a bit disappointing, but I can't wait to do it again next year!

That about sums up my feeling of this race, which I was mainly treating as a training running for my true fall "A" race: the Macau Marathon on December 2nd. Nonetheless, I still tried to pick a reasonable goal and race strategy, and after looking at the previous year's results, I figured hitting 5:30 would be in the general ballpark. As always, I had the mental goal not to take it out too fast in the first half, especially in the first hour.

On race morning, I left the house fairly late and couldn't find my bike keys, which meant that I had to take my wife's bike and sprint to catch the morning ferry. After making the ferry by 20 seconds, I was later shocked to find that my race number had fallen out on the mad dash to the pier. After taking a taxi up to the Peak and having my friend Marvin help out, I was able to get an extra race bid.

The race started out with a fast road section on the little loop the goes around the Peak. I had competing thoughts in my brain, with one voice telling me to slow down and run 50K pace, and the other voice, driven by competition and energy, not wanting to take run slower than all these people around me.  I've dubbed this problem the "King of the Hills" syndrome  because this always happens in King of the hills races in which I run the full but stupidly compete with the people in the half (since we both go off at the same time), thus sowing the seeds for a miserable positive split effort. 

I got to the first check point at roughly one hour --yes, I'd forgotten my Garmin too -- and reaching CP1 at one hour was a good 5-10 minutes ahead of goal time, further giving me confirmation that I'd taken it out too fast. Nonetheless, I was happy to do the next section up to Wan Chai Gap, which is one of my favorite trail sections in HK Island. 

Coming down towards Wang Nai Chung, I could feel my hips tighten, and my calves and quads had started to weaken a bit. This was clearly not a good sign going into the 23K mark, which I reached at 2:21. 

After reaching WNC, and seeing Marvin (who ran an impressive 2:07, getting 14th place in the half), I set off towards CP3, and even though this was in many ways the most runnable section of the course, I was reduced to run/walk/shuffle. This was the proverbial low point. I thought of dropping (although never seriously), and I tried to do the math of how long it would take me to finish if I had to walk in the last 20-25K.  

To my credit, I didn't get too down on myself, I resigned myself to the idea of walking it in, and just having a nice scenic day out hiking on the beautiful Hong Kong trails, even if my ego would be bruised by having a shockingly slow time associated with my name.

Luckily, as I got down to the Tai Tam area, my legs started to come back a bit. Although my hips were tight and my right calf kind of stopped working, i found that I could still lift my legs upward from the abs/upper thigh to get a bit of a stride.  So, I actually felt a bit better and ran most of the last 15K.

It was always great to meet my friend Kevin, who met up with me at around 5K to go on the last technical trail section. He helpfully gave me some coconut water (a great drink for a weary stomach) and engaging with him in lively conversation helped give me a mental boost. 

I was able to run it in, clocking in at 5:48. This was good enough for 43rd out of 189, and 20th out of 65 in category. Not great, but not a direly terrible as I had thought at the halfway mark. 

In general, I was pretty happy with the day in general (if not my performance). The race was also well organized, clearly marked, and with good check points.After doing the race I met my wife and son, and we had a nice family day too.

This race, although on trail for about 2/3 of the race, is still very runnable, and the beauty of the Hong Kong Trail never ceases to amaze me. I'd estimate that there are only about 15-30 minutes of it that need to be hiked, except for the most hardcore. Thus, in many ways, this race presents a nice alternative to crazy technical and/or steep trail races in HK (such as the 2 Peaks, some of the K.O.T.H., or the  Lantau 100). Those races are wonderful in their own right, but I think this race, as well as the RTI fill a nice niche.

With that in mind, I think that next year I'll be back, but with a smarter race strategy that focuses on more recon runs, and taking the first section out easily, while running hard from WNC to CP4, where the race is at it's most runnable and potentially the fastest. 

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