The big one
This was the race I’ve been building up to; 100km with over 6000m of climbing, reportedly the toughest 100km race in HK and my first attempt at the distance.
Here is the start/finish, the last 5km of the course ran along the ridge in the background, Pat Sin Leng. But I had a lot of running to do before getting there.
We set off on a beautiful morning at Plover Cove Reservoir, the sun stayed out all day. A few runners were caught out by the heat, but conditions were pretty nice.
A nice thing about running long distances is that going at slow speed it is easy to chat with the runners around you. For the first 20km I was among a pretty sociable pack of runners. And the scenery was lovely.
I was aiming to finish inside of 18 hours. The week before the race I made an elaborate chart of the split-times of runners who had finished this course in 18 hours in previous years and used it as a basis for planning my day.
I also arranged to have some support waiting for me at two of the aid stations. Here I am leaving aid station 6 wearing a fresh pair of socks, approaching the 60km mark, just before Tai Mo Shan, the tallest mountain along the route.
I reached the summit of Tai Mo Shan at nightfall. The next aid station had some good potato soup on offer, which really hit the spot. As I passed 70km, further than I’ve ever gone before, I saw fewer and fewer fellow runners. At 72km there was a deep river-crossing, that fresh pair of socks were definitely not fresh any more.
From here on I concentrated on keeping a steady pace. The mind wanders into some bizarre territory when you spend this long running alone at night in the forest.
Did I imagine it or was there a dead fish on the side of the trail back there?
I had been taking care to eat plenty of food all day, but by the final aid station I was starving. I chomped down a bowl of thick gooey congee (a rice-based porridge), half a sandwich, a cup of tea, some energy drink, two cups of Coke. I ate it all way too fast and most of it came straight back up again.
One more big climb up to that ridge. My Cantonese is not great, but I knew that Pat Sin Leng means Eight Somethings Ridge. If I had done more research I would have known that it means Ridge of the Eight Immortals. If I had given it some thought, I should have realised that the name Eight Immortals refers to the eight more peaks between me and the finish line.
From where I was running along the top of the ridge I could see the lights of the finish line 500 vertical meters below.
With my GPS watch reading 94km, a sharp mountain peak emerged from the darkness ahead of me. One last climb I thought to myself.
But then, a second peak appeared beyond the first. Any minute mow the trail was going to turn downhill all the way to the finish. But every time the trail began to descend, another of the eight peaks would be appear out of the dark.
Until eventually, after nearly 98km, the trail turned and headed down towards the finish.
Well, nearly. There was one last little hill before the finish line, but no big deal. After 101km in 17 hours and 43 minutes I was back where I started. Time for a drink with some other finishers.
My legs were feeling pretty ok all things considered. The biggest challenge of the night was going to be getting a cab back from the remote finish area to my flat. I should do a post on Hong Kong Taxis, they don’t always make life easy for you.
The next morning I headed to a German Christmas market, the perfect place to replace some of the thousands of calories I’d just burned.