Moontrekker – My trail racing season begins

I originally signed up for the shorter 27km version of Moontrekker. Then I joined overnight summer recce run covering the full 40km Sunrise route and really enjoyed the “extra” Chi Ma Wan loop. Then later in the summer I decided to sign up for HK100. Running the full length Moontrekker became part of my training plan for HK100. And so I made the switch.

Before this race I had almost no previous night running experience except that one all night Moontrekker practice during summer. Moreover I never finished a race this long. I had two full HK Trail practice runs from previous winter under my belt (44.5km). However the only 40km+ race that I previously entered (2013 Green Power) I had to abandon after half distance due to foot injury.

I did not have much idea what finish time to expect and what pace to plan. The hot and humid midsummer recce could hardly be a reference. Based on the results of others in 2012 race I could only guess that I should be able to finish below 6 hours. I decided to start rather easy and see how it goes.

The beginning went pretty much according to plan. After the initial squeeze through the narrow gate of the playground the route lead through the wide and open roads of Mui Wo for more than a kilometer giving plenty of time for the field to reasonably spread out before hitting the narrow trails. But by not shooting off too quickly I got a bit stuck in a crowd and had to fight my way through the field on the first steps and climbs. Once I was free to run I picked up the pace and probably a bit more than planned.

After about 6km the route entered the Chi Ma Wan peninsula. I felt really good and I kept my speedy pace. Sometime early at Chi Ma Wan I was passed by Nic and his buddy. They seemed to be following some pre-planned pace, clearly a bit faster than mine up to that point. I felt pretty good though so I decided to follow them and see what happens.

The whole Chi Ma Wan section was close to perfect run for me – quick pace, no issues and feeling very well. In this condition I arrived to the checkpoint at about 18km. Just before this checkpoint I passed for the first time the green Teva team that later on became my sort of a benchmark.

I slowed down for the checkpoint, picked up water and some sport drinks and went on without stopping. About 100 metres after the CP, before the climb begun, I started to cramp badly. Clearly my body decided to punish me for the quick pace on the previous 18km. My calves kept seizing but there was not much I could about it. A bit of stretching on the steps uphill and keep on going. I also adjusted my stride and this seemed to be working although I had the feeling that the next cramp is never too far away.

I kept on pushing and I was going reasonably well on the contour trail after Nam Shan. I was in the cramp management mode but again could maintain pretty good pace. I did not waste any time at the checkpoints, only stopped briefly for quick refill of drinks and picked a banana that I ate on the way.

Things were going fine until I reached the climb up to the Ngong Ping. The moment I slowed down to start climbing up the road a massive cramp seized my whole leg and moments later another cramp took care of the other leg. Hurting like hell I could not move at all.  I waited for a bit and tried some stretching. After a while the cramps let me go and I started slowly walking up the hill. I managed to slowly speed up and soon I could start to mix jogging and power walking until I made it to the final checkpoint before the final climb of the day up to Lantau Peak.

I saw some familiar faces at the last checkpoint and it surprised me that I was that close to these quick runners this far into the race. This really gave me a much needed kick in the backside and after quick refill I moved on to the final stage of the race.

All was fine for about 500 metres after the final checkpoint. Then the cramps attacked my legs again. I had to stop again, stretch and then move ahead again in severe cramp management mode. And things only got worse once I reached those tall steps leading up to the Lantau Peak. I was literally limping my way up and had to stop often to stretch as the cramps kept coming and coming. I overtook one or two people who were obviously in more pain than me but several bigger groups passed me before I reached the final ridge section under the summit. Among them also the green Teva team that I overtook about 18km earlier. I struggled a lot but made it to the top.

The descent from the Lantau Peak wasn’t any easier. I had to carefully watch my steps as every stronger impact or unexpected twist resulted in spasm grabbing my calves. I safely negotiated the steep section without loosing any positions and once I reached that final not too steep trail part of the descent I decided to go for it again. When I reached the road I could see the green shirts of the Teva guys not too far ahead. There was no way I was going to finish behind them. Their group pee stop helped me to overtake them and from then on I tried to push and run as quickly as I could while trying to (almost successfully) avoid the cramps. I lost one position on this descent to a really quick downhill runner but I managed to leave that Teva team safely behind me.

Moontrekker 2013 Finish

Moontrekker 2013 Finish

I crossed the finish line at 05:16:56. I finished 22nd overall, 20th among men and 12th in men solo category. This was totally beyond my expectations.  This was surprisingly good start to my first proper trail racing season and a solid first step towards the planned 100km race in January.

One and half day left to the next race, MSIG HK (the half version).

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