Monday, October 8, 2012

Race recap for Lantau 2 Peaks

The Lantau Two Peaks is one of the premier trail events in Hong Kong, with over 800 participants running, hiking, panting, and crawling up a course that ascends and descends about a mile of elevation in less than a half-marathon. About 80% of the course is on trails, much of which consists of the large stones that comprise the stairs that make up the trails to the peaks.

Every year the course changes directions. Last year, it did the steep ascent up to Sunset Peak from Tung Chong first, and I took out that section too fast. Then, feeling overly-confident in my downhill running prowess, I took out the downhill from Sunset way too fast too (or at least as fast as I’d normally do it in one training run up and down Sunset, which is right near my home). I over exerted myself going up Lantau Peak, and by the time that I had 3,000ft of desending to do, much of it simply running down stairs, my quads were shot. To make matters worse, I was still in the ball park of hitting a 3:30 finish, only having to do around a 5k in 30 minutes, most of it on the last flat section going to the mall in Tung Chong, City Gate. But by then I was suffering heat stroke, and I miserably walked it in, and near collapsed at the finish. Luckily my wife Rhea and friends Sabrina and Clement (the winner of the race) were there to dump water on me, and cool me off.

This year, I was determined not to run such a disastrous race. Based on the past experience and three recon runs, I decided on the following:

1)      Don’t take out the first section too hard. In some ways, the first uphill section up Nei Lak Shan to the Big Buddha is one of the hardest assents of the course, and it comes right away. The path goes up from the flat section near Tung Chong up to the base of Nei Lak Shan, which is actually the eighth highest peak in Hong Kong. (Note: they could easily call this two and a half peaks!)  Simialrly, just as in the marathon, if you run the first part too fast, you are not “banking time”, you are sowing the seeds for your demise.
2)      The heat could be a factor. In my training runs, which were often done at 30 C, I often noted that I felt about done when hitting Pak Au Gou, after Lantau Peak. If it were hot, it would be vital to rein it in.
3)      Don’t overstride on the downhills.
4)      Use poles. Luckily, I bought the Black Dimaond polls for the HK 100. In a few training runs up Lantau Peak, which comparable to an assent up a skyscraper, I noticed that polls could relive 20-40% of the burden from my legs, and by using my tris/lats, I could spare some of the energy in my legs.
5)      I divided the race into sections, and had a strategy for each. Flat area at start of race: don’t take out too fast, but run comfortably hard. Stairs up to Nei Lak and Nei Lak trail: again, don’t go too hard, stay within one’s ability. In training, I’d hit the part of the Nei Lak wooden stairs with the warning signs at an hour, in the race hit it at 53. Up to Lantau Peak: again, don’t go too hard, but use arms and poles to do the heavy lifting. Down Lantau: take advantage of this scenic downhill section, a relative comparative advantage for me, but don’t overstride. Up Sunset: again, use what’s left in the arms. Down Sunset: run fast and confidently (knowing I had done this section a few times, prepping the quads for the soreness in the process), but keep enough in the legs for last section of flats. Flat last 2K: give all that there is left.

The endresult is that I implemented this outline of a plan very well, and I ran just about as good of a race as I could expect on the day, given my fitness and training. I was also happy that I was able to do this in my Altra Lone Peaks, which performed very well on this terrain. 

With a time of 3:26, I took off around 20 minutes from last year. When the results come out, we’ll see how I placed, but hopefully it’s near the front side of the mid-pack, so to speak!

UPDATE: 57th overall (out of 441 finishers), and 30 out of 148 in category (male 30-39).

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