Three dreaded letters: DNF
Proper planning prevents piss poor performance, that’s what I always say. Of course, that only works if you stick to the plan. There were two races on Sunday, starting together and running concurrently, one over a distance of 24km and mine, over a distance of 52km. I had two alarms set to wake me up on Sunday morning, all my gear was ready, I knew the course well and had worked out optimum split times for each section, I arrived at the start line with time to spare.
Here’s the view from the start; Hong Kong just before dawn:
Last week Hong Kong was affected by two typhoons, torrential monsoon rains and flooding. I was expecting a wet, muddy run.
7am , the starting gun fired and off we went. The first 10km was a mix of trail and tarmac with a lot of downhill. I got to 10km inside the top five runners and 8 minutes ahead of my plan. This is when I should have slowed down to save energy and get back on plan. Instead I settled into a pack of runners keeping pace with this guy. Great bloke, but unfortunately he was pacing himself for the 24km race, so by halfway I was fifteen minutes faster than planned and already starting to overheat.
The runner who went on to win the race overtook me at about 30km. We chatted and agreed that the morning was way hotter than anticipated, but the temperature would be ok as long as the sun didn’t come out.
I eased off the pace. Every time the trail crossed a stream or waterfall I dunked my head under to cool off, by 35km I was feeling good and overtaking again. I was still inside the top ten runners.
Then at 40km I started to be sick. I’d been carefully managing my intake of water, energy and electrolytes, but was starting to get heatstroke. There was an aid station at 42km, I guzzled a litre of water and filled two flasks to last me the final 10km.
The last section of the course includes three big hill climbs and descents, I’d run this route before, all I had to do was stick it out until the finish line.
The sun came out.
By the time I was coming down the penultimate hill I was stumbling, struggling not to vomit and was low on water. At 45km I found a race marshal, lay down on the ground and puked.
Looking back, it’s easy to think ‘I could have made it up that last hill, I was so close to the finish.’ But in reality, I know that if I tried to continue I’d have been in big trouble. I used to pride myself on never having dropped out of a race. One time when I was a junior track and field athlete I finished a steeplechase with what turned out to be a damaged knee ligament and ended up unable to walk unaided for a couple of weeks. That was a dumb thing to do. Dropping out on Sunday was probably the right call. It means I have a chance to get fit in time to race again next weekend. But I’m still gutted. For the first time ever my race result says ‘Did Not Finish’. DNF.