This is the second of a 2-part post on the 2016 Vibram Hong Kong 100, with this post focusing more on the events of race day! Click here to re-visit the first part.
Race Day (finally)
4 am was the time we all agreed to wake up on race day. It was a struggle to wake up, but I jumped out of bed and immediately boiled water for our breakfast; instant cup noodles. We got ready and fast-marched out into the dark, cold and chilly streets to the bus pick up point at Southorn Playground.
Most of us were somewhat prepared for the cold weather, but no amount of training in Singapore could prepare us for the polar vortex that went into full swing on race day. The blistering winds when we got out of the bus at the race venue was insane! I was shivering so much just trying to put on another layer of tights. Some runners had to run up and down the venue just to keep warm!
We huddled at the start line to keep warm and as soon as the race started, we made a speedy break for the first up-hill to avoid being stuck in the human traffic. It was a patient 5 km through Sheung Yiu Country Trail before re-grouping at the trail exit. We bumped into Steven Carr briefly before we continued on to the first support point at High Island. I didn’t refuel much but ate some bananas before quickly moving ahead. The four of us were together for the early tarmac sections of the race.
Upon arriving at CP1 (Ham Tin – 21 km), we stopped to grab some food and replenished our Tailwind supplies. Ian was the first to leave CP1. I followed suit about 10 minutes later, having to drop Andy as he opted to eat a little more. From there to CP2 at Wong Shek (28km), I was about 10 to 15 minutes behind Ian. It surprised me then that I could keep up with that pace. Competitiveness aside, I really did enjoy the first parts of the course, especially the seaside view.
From CP2 to CP3 (Hoi Ha – 36 km), I maintained my pace, making up for my slower climbing times by charging the descents. Things got a little tougher from CP3 to CP4 (Yung Shue O – 45km) as my right quads started to feel lethargic. It never cramped up, but it didn’t feel great, with a dull ache lingering on during the uphill and downhills.
Despite that setback, I kept my positivity up and maintained a pace steady before reaching the CP4. There I bumped into Jiong How and Wei Yong. As before, I didn’t stay too long at CP4, but snagged some chocolates for use as mid-run treats and ate some chips and nuts to prevent any cramps from setting in.
I started seeing some attrition in my performance after leaving CP4. The climbs on the way to Kai Kung Shan (“Rooster Hill”) though only 399m, started to wear out my battered quads. Being a bad climber didn’t help much either as I struggled to get to the top and over the other side towards CP5 (Kei Ling Ha – 52 km). I kept my spirits up tho, as I knew that this wasn’t the time to feel sorry about a poor climb. I pressed forward and later during a descent, fell rather awkwardly on my poles, injuring my right knuckles in the process. Eventually, I made it out to CP5 with much time to spare just as the evening sky set in.
I met Jiong How at CP5 while looking for my drop bag. He was already there for about 10 minutes, having passed me earlier when I was struggling to get up to Rooster Hill. After changing into a fresh set of clothes and shoes (swapped the Softgrounds for the Speedcross 3), I stayed with him at the CP for awhile before deciding to continue on together into the night, as he himself was struggling with a shin issue. As we were about to leave some 40 minutes later, Andy came through to the CP and we decided to wait for him as well. Misery loves company!
The battle against the cold started from CP5 to CP6 (Gilwell Camp – 65 km). In spite of the early difficulties of the climb, my mind was still alert as opposed to being completely shutdown at the 50 km mark at Translantau. I led the group through the night with Andy and Jiong How behind me. That section wasn’t very technical, but the cold winds in the exposed areas made it difficult to move forward. I could still run the downhills but had to stop periodically for the two to catch up.
The ridge line after Ma On Shan would have been epic, if not for the gusty wind that nearly blew everyone off just trying to run across it. With some help from our poles, we made it across the other side, though the onslaught of the wind didn’t really stop. We persevered and eventually came through to Gilwell Camp.
At Gilwell Camp, we were greeted by Louis who encouraged us to push on. But at that point, I knew I couldn’t because of the lack of layers. Andy was struggling so badly that I took out my emergency jacket and covered him up. Jiong How had a down jacket put on him from a kind volunteer who saw the three of us shivering under the open tent where they were. I was doing alright, sort off.
The three of us were moved into a makeshift warm tent (as the main one was full) with a lot of other runners who were struggling with the cold. It was there that we decided to call it quits on the race, as being hypothermic in the later stages of would have caused either one of us to pull out, possibly in more dire state than we were now in. It was a miserable time waiting for the shuttle bus to move us out from the CPs, as they came in 3 hour intervals.
Because of the chaotic situation at that time, Andy boarded the recovery bus and knocked out, leaving me and Jiong How to wait another 3 hours for the next bus, as we hadn’t registered our names earlier (including Andy’s) but we decided to be . In the end, he was stuck outside the apartment while waiting for us to arrive, as I was the only one who had the house keys (apart from Ian).
I was hoping that I wouldn’t have a DNF in my ultra running journey. But now matter how one tries, some things were made to be beyond your control, especially those of nature (and the one above of course). This first DNF was still a hard pill to swallow and I still feel disappointed that I didn’t finish the race. But given the circumstances, I probably wouldn’t have made it very far beyond CP8 if I tried.
I do have a slight regret of not putting in my Salomon Wind Jacket (my thicker red jacket) into my drop bag at CP5. Perhaps if I had left it in my finishing line drop bag, I may have continued on to CP7.
In all, my trip to Hong Kong this time has been a memorable one. And it had been great to have done it with my team of Ian, Andy and Jiong How. It was also great to have met familiar faces in the Hong Kong Trail Running community; Steven Carr, John Ellis, Jeri Chua, Samantha (briefly at Racing The Planet), the staff at Gone Running and of course all the trail runners at the race.
And a very very big thank you to Janet and Steve for giving me the chance to join the race this year, the HK100 organizing committee and volunteers for coordinating a fantastic race in spite of the frosty weather. The volunteers enthusiasm, energy levels and hospitality aided all the runners, especially the mid & back of the pack runners who were really struggled with the cold. I really enjoyed the race and would definitely want to return to try and finish the race.
- WAA Ultra for making me part of their WAA Expert Team for 2016. And for giving me the opportunities to do some interesting things and connect with other members of the team on race day.
- Nuke Optics and Simple Hydration for their continued support in allowing me to be their brand representative for this year. It’s been a fruitful relationship and hope there’ll be more to come this year.
- Gone Running and Racing The Planet for helping us out with our running gear purchases in Hong Kong.
Running Data (for you running geeks)
Strava Flyby (and Movescount Movie!)
The Strava Flyby is an interesting tool you can use to see how the race ‘looked like’ via our GPS watch data. Click here for our teams Strava Flyby.
You can also watch the Suunto Movie created from my GPS track.
To get a perspective of how cold it was, check out the temperature graph from my Suunto Ambit 3 Peak. The temperature at the start line was about 16 degrees, with an average of at 11.7 degrees for the entire race. It dipped towards the late stages of the race to below 10 degrees, but came back up to 17.2 degrees as I reached the warm tent. Click here for the full Movescount data.
News Articles and Blogs
- Polar vortex hits Hong Kong: record low temperatures close schools, hospitalise 45, injure 111, trap 130 on Kowloon Peak
- ‘It’s carnage’: Freezing conditions force organisers to call early end to Vibram Hong Kong 100
- In Hong Kong, Frost Chasers Seek the Thrill of the Chill
- Hong Kong’s Coldest Day in Nearly 60 Years
- 2016 HK100 – When Hong Kong froze
- The Hong Kong 100 or How I became a “LEGIT” ultra runner
- Vibram Hong Kong 100 (Jeanette Wang)
- A Funny Old Week – 2016 (Vibram Hong Kong 100) – Steven Carr