Wednesday, 3 April 2013

- Lantau50 race review by Fred Tai -

So the decision to join this race was right after completing my first Vibram HK100. It was the variation of terrain and view that motivated me to sign up for another race. With  fresh pain still lingering in my battered quads from  the uphill and downhill plus endless stairs, I decided to choose the shorter version of the Lantau race as I was curious to find out how I would fare in a 50km race. However, the registration for the race was already closed, so  I went on the waitlist and luckily I got in!
Planning for races is one of the few things I take joy in. Lantau50 was nicely placed 2 weeks right after Shotover Moonlight Mountain Marathon (SMMM) in Queenstown, NZ. I completed the SMMM in approx. 7:10hours; it was a pristine mountain trail with total elevation gain of 2200m. So coming to Lantau50, which had a total elevation gain of 2700m and 51km distance, I reckoned that I should be able to complete it in about 8:20 to 8:30 hours thereabouts.

I took an evening flight in, arriving late night and checked into the hotel in Sheung Wan, woke up early morning and caught the 655am slow ferry from Central Pier 6. It was cold and breezy once I reached Mui Wo with temperature around teens. 

Met up with many friends there; namely Adrian, Thomas, Alvin, Farhan and a few others. Camwhoring session ensued, and I saw a few of the HK trail elites too.

The Lantau50 and Lantau100 shared the same start time, and at the start point it was pretty much a Singaporean/Malaysian affair, as I saw many familiar faces (though I do not know all of them). Right before the race started, there was a lion dance performance. When the timer went off, we were still pretty much chatting away with each other.  We started off pretty far back on Mui Wo Beach, and ran about 200m to a cone, then made a U-turn to head back to where we came from. After  about less than 1km, we started the climb upwards on Lo Fu Tau (465m). It was a bottle neck when we started the climb as everyone scrambled to be ahead of each other.  Myself and Adrian Wong(AW) started together and we paced each other step by step. Somewhere around here, AW reminded me that the actual action starts after CP3, where the flat ground starts… hmm…I was thinking to myself:Was that a warning from him that he would smoke me after CP3? The climb towards Lo Fu Tau (465m) was not as tough as I thought it would be, so I was hoping for the next climb to Sunset Peak (854m) to be a bit tougher. I cameto regret this in the  later part of the race.

Right before CP1, I saw Kim Hong (KH), Singapore’s top adventure racer. He  was running the Lantau100, and he stopped to remove some debris from his shoes. At this section AW zoomed ahead of me. Towards CP2 it was a bit more of an undulating terrain with some bush-whacking . Somewhere around this section, I caught up with AW and saw Janelle. AW and I continued on our journey. We did some sort  of police and thief action and I must admit that the downhill run was rather fun and technical too. Which also meant that with one wrong footing, one can get some hard knocks! :P

An experienced ultra runner once told me to expect uphill after every downhill. Sunset Peak was all about climbing 854m and it was 9km to CP3. 

Just a few hundred metres into the climb, KH appeared from nowhere and went past  us almost  effortlessly. We were trudging our feet together, again step by step.. The downhill towards CP3 was rather steep and tricky. I was sure that sliding down might be easier than running down, but still, I didn’t want to dirty my new compression tights, so I chose to try to run the downslope instead .. haha…

When we reached CP3, we stopped for a breather for the first time in the race. I gulped down some Coke, and KH who was ahead of us earlier joined us for a chat. CP3 was where the Lantau50/100 participants split up. KH decided to join us to do only the 50km as his intention was just to clock mileage with this run. So after a couple of minutes of chatting, KH asked AW and I , which of us would like to lead the pace since there were  3 of us. I literally gulped when I heard that. So anyway we took off, with KH setting the pace, AW in the middle and me the last. We ran for about less than 1km, and I found myself struggling to keep up. It was technical trails with some climb over rocks on a few dried waterfalls, which to me was not runnable. They were dropping me fast with their pace, and I was struggling to just keep them in sight. CP3 to CP4 was 11km apart. I told myself, AW is darn right, the race actually starts after CP3. Smell no smoke at all!! I had breathing difficulty and was seeing stars, but I trudged on by just walking. It was not wise to try running when feeling giddy on a rocky section. I was trying to figure out what was happening to my body, was it low blood sugar or low electrolytes? My inner thigh cramped up with each steps. So I took in gel for energy, and decided to suck a quarter of Nuun effervescence tablet.  The tablet seems to work, cramp went away, but the feeling of seeing stars and giddiness lingered on until CP4. This was a very demoralizing section, I seriously thought of quitting and DNF. It was purely a mental tussle here, one part of me said it was tough, it was a  hot day, you have got nothing to prove, everyone is overtaking you because u are slow and walking and another part of me said you have completed TNF SG100, FAR114, HK100, so what is a Lantau50, just keep the forward momentum.
As I approached CP4, I saw this familiar faced Master Scout from HK100, a very friendly chap and he was all talkative. Another runner was complaining about the poorly marked section between CP3 to CP4, and I overheard him saying that there was already a Lantau100 participant that lost his way and passed through his CP.  It did not strike me whom that lost runner was, until a few more steps up Lo Yan Shan (303m) and my thoughts gathered back; the lost 100km runner was Kim Hong! I decided to put on my ear phone, and blasted it away. As the music blasted away, I found strength in my legs again and started running like someone being possessed. I overtook a handful of runners, and then more, running every minor ups and downs.
As I passed CP5, the marshal shouted 5km more! So I ran harder, thinking that this last part was to be “flatter”, but no, it still had the small ups to climb and mini downhills. Only when I hit the Mui Wo jetty then I knew that I was slightly over a km away from finishing. I crossed the finish line in 8:18:18(huat ahh!), with gun time showing 8:20. AW completed in 7:58, gun time 8:00. Looking back, I would have DNFed earlier if not for God’s grace and strength, and I could not have asked for a better finishing time given the amount of walking I did from CP3 to CP4. J

*Pics credit to Fred Tai and Adrian Wong.

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