Monday, January 7, 2008

Mizun.o Hong Kong Half Marathon Championship

The race is the real yearly "showdown" for distance running in Hong Kong: period of the year, no conflicts with other races local or overseas, very large local media coverage. So all the competitive runners in Hong Kong show up for the race, and the race entries are full within hours.

I had several doubts if I was fit for racing: the knee was still aching even at slow pace and the calves were still pretty tight and sore. But I really had the desire to make it, since for many years I missed it because of some holiday trip or injury. The fact that I was also entered in the team race with my club and therefore a last minute pull-out would have left the team out, sealed the decision ... and I set my alarm clock for a 5.30am wake-up.

Temperature: 15C/60F, 2000 runners at the start.

The course is a very tough loop with a mainly rolling uphill first section, followed by a return loop to the start point and a final flat 6k on along a dam. The start is right at the feet of a 400m long/15% gradient hill that immediately split the starting group into smaller packs.
I was pretty excited to wear for the first time the new club uniform and make part of our "Team A", with team mates that were close to my level, so the internal competition would have been an added spice to the race against all the other best runners in Hong Kong.

The demanding starting section immediately put the things into order in terms of race: a leading pack with the 4 best runners in HK (KO Chan, Gi KM, A. Naylor, Stevenson) took off and set for a race targeting probably the 1h12 mark. Two other packs behind gathered all the 2nd-tier runners.
My plan was to avoid at all cost lactic acid build-up in the tough first section, to avoid losing leg freshness in the faster 2nd part. So I tucked in the 3rd pack, and mantained a effort such to avoid going over 180bpm in the uphill.
We passed the 5k in 19'10", I was probably around the 10/20th place together with other 10 runners.
In the downhill section, TM Choi (who was 3rd last week-end) made an impressive progression and shattered all our pack: at every 100m we were losing pieces, the pace was really crazy, I clocked a sub-3minutes Km and by Km 10 I was left alone to follow him, but I also could not follow for too long and settle in a more confortable pace, trying to still stay under 180bpm, in order to have some margin left for the final flat section.
The positive thing is that I was now 10th alone and the runners ahead of me were appearing closer every mile.
On the dam I was really struggling, my calves were tightening and I did not feel to have the energy to really place a "surge" in the final 5k. Probably others were even worse than myself as 2 good runners dropped out of the race in exhaustion and I caught other 2 with only 5km to go. From that moment on, I administered myself to the finish line, I was really scraping the bottom of the tank and I was damning myself for the silly idea of running back-to-back such demanding races.
The picture is self-explanatory, but luckily I was only 500m from the finish.
At the end, the result was far better than I could ever expect: 6th overall, 1h15'20" (new PB by 3 minutes) and overall I believe It would have been very difficult to make a better placement because all the runners ahead of me (except one) are by far much better level.
It was also great to catch up so many talented runners in the final 5k. The timing is a great time on that course, I made up some calculations, to simulate a "smoothing" of the uphill/downhill effect and it is probably equivalent to 1h14 or 1h30'45" on an ideal situation.
I did not like to be so tired in the final miles, but obviously racing back-to-back 30k+HM DID HAVE some conseguence ...

for the record, the race was won by Chan KaHo for the third time in a row in 1h12', while Wong SiuPing brought his endurance of best local marathon runner to a good victory in the female ranks.
Out team did score an excellent 2nd, with all of us coming to the finish line very close to each other.

The HR profile makes a good summary of the race: controlled effort until 40 minutes with spikes due to uphills, big push in the 2nd half, but the last 10 minutes were really long ...


Andrew said...

Excellent performance and congratulations on the new PR!

Mark said...

Awesome run especially after the recent 30K! Congrats.