170116 – Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon 2016 was awarded the IAAF Gold Label in its 20th Anniversary & also introduced a new course to accommodate approx. 74,000 runners.
I tried to keep everything as identical to the previous year as possible. Same flight – (Scoot – Sat 0155h SG – HK 0535h), same accommodation (HomyInn, near the Nathan Road START line), same schedule (breakfast, race pack collection, shopping, carboloading lunch, maybe dinner), & no drama.
However, the race had other plans for me. The weather had been forecasted to be rainy during the week I was going to be there & my mates in Hong Kong had given me an earlier headsup about this too. All I could do was to pray & hope it wouldn’t pour on race day. I heard about the course change but didn’t know how it affected the race, looking at the map, my untrained eye, it looked the same as before, even the elevation gain wasn’t very much different from yesteryears.
The plane touched down 10mins ahead of schedule, & I cleared customs really quickly, could have been quicker had I filled up the immigration form and used the loo on the plane instead to freshen up.
I had two breakfasts, first, Yum Cha at Luk Yut Tea House, then I went to Honolulu Cafe for Bolo Pau, Egg Tarts and Milk Tea. Yes, the carboloading had began.
I headed the race pack collection thereafter at Victoria Park to collect the race pack, the grounds had turned muddy and soft akin to SCMS Padang grounds. I had to take go through extra lengths to ensure my racing shoes weren’t too badly affected. Shower caps could have done the trick.
Next stop was Mongkok, where it was time to shop. I went looking for gels, but I couldn’t find GuGels to the death of me. I stumbled onto a outdoor adventure store, & bought a heavily discounted Salomon X-SCREAM shoe. & almost bought a Goretex version of the X-SCREAM3D. This discount store on the ground floor, apparently had a bigger flagship tucked away on the 12th floor of the building opposite Broadway Cinemas.
Outlander had a wide range of outdoor adventure products and had the GuGels I was looking for. Thereafter, I had a quick walk around the store & Inspected every single shoe there. & to my surprise, they sold the supposedly yet to be released Salomon Sense Pro, which wasn’t due to be released till Spring Summer 2016. It was calling me out. They had two colourways, Orange/Black and Neon Green. The neon green-everything aesthetic was perfect for the roadrunner in me. I tried it on, and lo & behold, it was the exact same feeling as the S-Lab X Series, which was heavily featured in my previous marathon campaign to Bali and Berlin.
I didn’t hesitate, I got a pair & decided on the spot & thought that it would be a good idea to wear the Salomon Sense Pro fresh out of the box. I took the shoe and decided to wear it for the rest of the day to season it.
After I was done with shopping, I met my Hong Kong friend, Kate, for a carboloading dinner at Satay House & thereafter, went to check-in for the night.
The decision to wear a pair of shoes that had 0km mileage of seasoning could easily make or break the race for some. But I was undeterred.
I woke up at 3:30am & had a breakfast which consisted of a slice of Japanese Bakuen Swiss Roll , and a packet of honey roasted almonds washed down by Pocari Sweat.
I geared up and headed out to the START line. I quickly deposited the baggage and went to do a quick warm-up. I realized that the runners were forming up nearer to the START line this year compared to the previous two years and by the time I came back from my second round down the road, it was at least 7 rows deep, but somehow I still managed to get to the front of the tape.
All this while, as it started to drizzle, Elite athletes were doing they’re strides as the commoners watched on. I was trying to figure out what was so special on their bibs but I could not figure out what was so different about them. I could have easily went up to warm up as well just had to seem like I belonged.
10mins to the START the Hong Kong Police formed a line with hands held, and they walked the participants forward to meet the elites at the tape.
6am, the race was flagged off promptly on time, runners go at breakneck speeds, while I played it cool and decided to stick with my own pace. I took the first km in 3:45 & felt good as I kept a high cadence down the long stretch of Mongkok on the modified course (usually we turn left almost immediately after the flag-off). The 2nd to 5th km was a roller coaster as I went from 3:26/km – 3:58/km pace.
Somewhere 5km into the race it started to rain as we exited the first tunnel. Every km up till the 10th km was done in under 4mins except for the 7th km at 4:07. But everything was going according to plan – take the first 10k in 40mins & continue from there. 10km came & 39:52 flashed on my Garmin Forerunner 920xt.
At the 10km I felt my ITB starting to tighten up. A very familiar but unwelcome feeling. I continued to push the pace and found myself in a nice running pack consisting of girls and guys. Great, they were all keen on going fast & keeping a high cadence. I have not done much pack running & felt it was quite disruptive to my running, so I decided to put a few surges to remain infront so I don’t get distracted by the multiple footsteps and the fear of tripping leading to putting the brakes on. I surged downhill and uphill, crazy, yes, but I had done a bulk of training in trails and the hills of NTU, so I was accustomed to it. After a particular surge downhill at 13-14km, I felt a loss of power to my left leg, so much so that I had to stop to stretch it twice. Whatever pocket of time i has build-up was now gone & I was 8 secs behind 4:00/km pace just before I entered the Tsim Tsa Tsui to Central tunnel.
By the time I was done with it, 16km in & I was 1 min off 4:00/km pace. At this juncture, when the rain greeted me at the end of the tunnel, there was only two choices. Kill or be killed; Go hard or Go home; Fight or die. Coming into this race, I knew my body wasn’t in the same kind of conditioning as last year, during that one week I was clocking 90km, I felt my right matatersaral tinge, after that I eased off the mileage in hope that it could recover in time, so any hopes of bettering the time was just a bonus. However, I did know that SUB1:30 was still within my grasps. But I didn’t have much time left, 20mins for the last 5km, which equates to me having to do faster than a 4min pace for the remaining distance. But I knew the last 5km was going to be easy with the crowd support and the remaining water points; if past experience at this race counted for. In the instant, I psyched myself out and did some positive self talk & drill sergeant majored my self to do so. “C’mon Randall, you’ve done this before, you f*cking got this!” Boom! I bit the bullet & went into a invincible state of mind driving the elbows, lifting the knees and digging deep. It was go time & nothing will stand in my way. I powered through the remainder of the race and finished in 1:27’51”.
No new PB or significant improvement in terms of race results, however, I’m glad I dug in & showed myself an indomitable spirit during crunch time. I could have easily flip the switch and gone into a relaxed run finishing the run regretfully. I had come off a small block of training where I had come back into shape. I believe this year’s strategy will work as I’m make use of races as tempo runs, yoga as enforced stretching and climbing as mental conditioning and core building exercises. As long as I remain mentally focused and physically injury free, a BQ time is within grasps at Gold Coast in July.
SCHKM is done, now time to refocus on SAFSA Track & Field 2016 (24-25 Feb) where I will be doubling up in the 10,000m & 5,000m.