King of the Hills – Sai Kung – Full Marathon – 2011

What a day! I used to think that KOTH Lantau was the toughest but now I think KOTH Sai Kung is the toughest in the series! The half marathon course is not that hard. Lots of running on the flats. But the full marathon course (the 2nd half) is tough as hell. You keep climbing and climbing and it seems like there is no respite.

Anyway, this is what happened today.

I was trying to play my A game today. I wanted to see what I was capable of and more importantly, I wanted to beat Claus (the near 60-year-old superman who beat me in the last race). Weather was perfect. Cloudy and about 18 degrees.

I did a bit of warm up at the start, so no real issues in the beginning unlike the last race. The only trouble was overtaking. Reminded me of Care Action. Too many people and it was hard to overtake without risking injury to self or the “overtakee”. The course goes through some sort of outdoors prison (or so it seemed) and the thumping noise of 100s of runners sent all the dogs on a barking spree.

My strategy was to play my own game. Meaning, keep running speed below 13.5kmh, ignore the overtakers and conserve some energy for the tough 2nd half. It seemed to work. I was running with the legendary KK Chan on parts of the half marathon and even overtook him (much to my surprise) just before the half marathon check point.

Half was easy. I still felt relatively fresh and completed the half in either 1 hr 59 mins or 2 hrs on the dot. Then came the tough bits! KK Chan showed me who was boss and overtook me with admirable ease on the next climb up.

It seemed like I was climbing forever and the course goes up and down with a lot of flats in between. Energy levels dipped about 30 minutes into the 2nd half. I started consuming a lot of gel (1 gel + 2 Blocks). Ran out of water at one point and felt quit thirsty but quenched the thirst by consuming more gel. (Bad idea, I later realized). Anyway, managed to overtake a few people. The trail eventually connects to Mac 2 and then deviates again. After that there is one hell of a climb to two mountains. At that point, I started experiencing leg cramps/stomach cramps (lasted only about 3-5 seconds but quite intense). I had to kill speed and persist. I was visualizing the finish line at one point in the hopes that it would make time run fast! Garmin showed about 28km, still had 10kms to go. Some superman came out of nowhere from behind and overtook me. One such super duper man was William Davies himself (the guy who wins with ease). “Aren’t you supposed to be way up ahead?” I asked him. “I got lost” he replied and disappeared into the horizon.

By the time, I got down to the road from the mountains, I was dead tired. Running down on all the boulders and pebbles wasn’t pleasant on the legs and I lost concentration for a second. Then came a big fall. Possibly the 5th or 6th one for the day. This fall though, triggered all the cramps on both legs and the stomach. I had to sit for 30 seconds, relax and then continued jogging.

On the final part of the course, there is an irritating and needless (that’s what I was telling myself then) 3km family trail before the finish. I was exhausted and couldn’t increase pace beyond 9kmh. I looked back intermittently to ensure Claus wasn’t around. Luckily, he wasn’t but my gut feeling insisted that he was only 1-2 minutes behind. So, I maintained 9kmh and finished at 1336! Sure enough, Claus came in at about 1339, walked up to me and exclaimed “Do you not have any respect for elders?” Hilarious. Had the course been 5km longer, he’d have kicked my butt.

I have said this before and I will say it again – I am completely amazed by the number of fit people in HK! My effort above seemed less than impressive as it put me only at 19th place overall! I finished 7th in my category though. Meaning, there were 12 other people who were older than me or were females and finished ahead of me. Hmmm…

Anyway, the gels seemed to have screwed up the stomach. It took about 4 hours of rest to regain full control of the body!

Stats: 38km, 7th in category, 19th overall. Time: 4 hrs 36 minutes (2011)

Contrast this to 2010, where I was 50th overall and completed 5 hours 35 minutes. About 1 hour difference.