Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon: 42K of Photos and Stories

The road to ultra marathon on May 1 wasn't planned at all. Nevertheless, runner no. 8 was booked and so was this marathon before that. To complicate things, Ninja Turtle as my friend Chill (TTB) would call me got an unexpected injury (adductor muscle strain) from grooving too much to become a rabbit which coincidentally the year it is. So the turtle remained a turtle, no speed training, playing safe but did his part running the mountains.

He eventually thought of doing the Gallowalk termed from the Olympian Jeff Galloway's run-walk-run race strategy. Perfect method to do when you've got a marathon smack in the middle of an ultra marathon training. Sensible as it keeps the muscles from getting too stress out for the run and the days after that. Tried it on one of the long runs and had worked wonders. To run all or to run-walk, that was the question. The turtle had became wiser and opted for the latter.

Arrive at Hong Kong in freezing temperatures (10ºc) which was eventually declared as the coldest months including January since 1977. Whisked away in those monotone taxis past bridges and streets that we were to run in the next two days.

Causeway Bay or East Point is one of Hong Kong's major shopping district and has the most expensive rent in the world. No wonder we were billeted in the most tiniest room I've ever stayed. It was to be our home for the next 4 days.

Nevertheless, it was the perfect place, 300m from the marathon finish line in Victoria Park and 400m from the shopping district.

The race pack collection was the usual efficient and timely but unusually devoid of overseas runners that greeted me in Singapore.

Walked past the marathon finish line arc which was on its finishing touches. The turtle wondered though if he can ever reach this point to basked in the glory of the run.

Victoria Park is Hong Kong's biggest public park. Home to Filipinos and other Asian nationalities on Sundays, it is coincidentally the joyous meeting point of all runners and well wishers in this Sunday's race. Amazingly they have a runner's path that is made of rubber.

Off the turtle went to a quick visit to neighboring Macau for sightseeing and carboloading. With temperature dropping there below the 10's, it was freakin cold!

The trip would have been a bore if my wife would not have come, her first time to cheer me in a race and her first time to have been coaxed to buy a furry black coat as her jacket she's wearing wouldn't have suffice. As for the turtle, it was what everybody calls acclimatizing.

A marathon run would not be complete without asking one's guidance from above for a safe journey. A side trip St. Dominic's Church in Macau provided the opportunity. The 1587 church is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site and can be located in the famous Senado Square.

Back in Hong Kong, the turtle slept on his shell early even though the his start time was 6:45am, an unusually late start to expect. He slept for a minimum of 6 hours and 10 hours the previous day, the race nerves gone and a first time to have that luxury back when it counts. Donning a yellow LiveStrong tee backed by another shirt beneath, arm warmers, CWX insulator tights and a black cap, I was looking like my friend speedy Rolando Espina and ready to go.

This year 64,253 runners joins the race, 9,711 of them running the full Mary in two waves. The turtle runs the second wave of runners at 6:45am, a late start to mention but still dark, dreary and cold.

The race is not complete without the usual photo ops. There's the takbo.ph runners Raymond San Diego and Rolando Pimentel who had the courtesy to bring our flag. Troy and Dindz completed our signature smile.

A loud horn instead of the gun sounded each wave of runners, everybody still in its jolly mood. The few kilometers of the race brought us up the famous streets of Tsim Sha Tsui before exiting towards the coastal highway passing through 21k challenge runners were on their way back to the finish line.

Water station were stationed at every 5kms another odd one instead of the usual 2.5kms. The turtle didn't mind, the cold weather does not give you the appetite to drink more.

By the 6th kilometer, the stonecutters bridge opened to traffic in December, 2009 at a cost of HK$2.76B and the world's second longest cable stayed span bridge looks imposing, a rather prelude to the tough route that HK marathon is known to be. In all we pass 3 bridges, long by any standards and running them back and forth.

Tough climb but the sights are to behold.And the engineering that was made into it was a marvel having been featured in Discovery's channel Extreme Engineering. By the 10th kilometer, we passed the first tunnel, cool but humid and slightly declined it was a pleasure to ran on them. The turtle started drinking the salt caps and gels as to every 5 kms thereafter.

The Tsing Ma bridge, the seventh longest span suspension bridge (span of 1,377m, height of 206m) in the world and the largest of all carrying rail traffic, the turtle got the coldest head wind ever experienced. The first time cut-off with nets and buses were stationed ready to capture the slowest of us.

Watson's disposable isotonic drinks were a plenty and minty in flavor. Being disposable it was the greenest idea possible as espoused by the city administration.

At halfway, the turtle passed the 3rd bridge, not as long and as difficult, a great relief to the constant increase elevation of the route.

The roads were entirely closed from 12mn to 2pm on race day. There were no marshals manning the intersections, only first aid and support groups. It is a welcome sight were safety comes first and a far sight from the usual local races back in the country.

Safety in Hong Kong streets are of greatest importance. Today its the only exception when we could drink and run, non alcoholic beverage only.

The Liniments stations were a plenty too. A heaven sent for the injured and slightly injured.

At the 25th kilometer, the turtle became a ninja on some sort. Feeling energetic as ever from several walking breaks, the speedometer began to roll high.

Like a roller coaster it was dreaded to be, the never ending up and down route began to take toll on the weary runners.

But the support groups were there, timely for runner's boost of energy.

And the cheerers were never ending!

They even have a runner's relaxation station.

Entering the final tunnel, the Western Harbor Crossing, a dual three lane immersed tube tunnel across Victoria Harbor and at km34 was all speed for the ninja turtle. Feeling strong without any hints of cramps and fatigue,pace increased to 5:30-6:30/km. Galloway must have been a proud man that day.

Even the abrupt spike at the end and such weird cambered roads wouldn't have put off the pedals. On and on the nearer has come and so was the numerous overpasses and underpasses.

But all was not well, the ninja turtle's right ITBS began to flare up like hell. Must have been the numerous downhills, but deter it did not. Walked on downhills, ran like Gump on flats. The cheers have been louder and so was the finish line.

Looking strong as ever, the Garmin was ninja turtle's best friend. Looking at the watch in Wanchai district, a big smile has dawned knowing that whether I walk or run the last few kilometers, I have broken my PR!

And the turtle did it on a tough course using Galloways as it passes the last bridge before main Causeway Bay, a kilometer before the grand entrance to Victoria Park.

The cheers were the loudest in crazy, glitzy Causeway Bay, the excitement building towards the ending which was a happy hippy this time around. I was in a world of my own, raising constantly my fist ang giving high fives to spectators for a run I didn't expect to end on a high note.

And was too amazed to have six sharks get out of from Ocean Park to run the race! photocredit: Kenneth Toledo

And so the Ninja Turtle finish his 3rd marathon exactly two years from his first run in hip hip hooray fashion and surprisingly a personal record on a tough course using Galloway's! Rank 1,509 overall and 1,340 for my wave.

No fatigue, No cramps and happy face to boot. The turtle gives thanks to the One above for the strength and the accomplishment and my family for the encouragements that never faltered.

To cap, you get to receive two solid souvenirs to remind you of the day you conquered one of Asia's toughest marathon routes.

But wait, Hong Kong is not all about the marathon. Its sometimes whimsical to just run and go home. It was time to shop, and shop we did which goes to say to that there goes my recovery walks.

But every happy endings somehow would have to end. It was time for the turtle to go home. Tired, weary but proud of the achievement and 20 more kilos of luggage to carry. It was after all time to...

Hug my other two most important people in my life! Oh I terribly miss them so much and told them the story of the turtle and rabbit with its happy endings.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Road Ahead

Its been a while since my last post. In between that and today, I've rode my first road bike, got a surprise adductor muscle strain injury temporarily sidelining me to just take photos in Cebu Marathon last January and got back into shape after that. Although the injury still recurs from time to time, I have been more careful about it and constant rest and massage has improve the conditions quite well.

For the bike, its been awesome and I haven't even tested its full limits yet nor my body against the punishing climbs. It would come. I'm looking forward to riding more with it within the few months.

Its just four days before the Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon. I would be leaving tonight with my wife in tow for the needed break in Macau as well as a business trip to get new stuffs for her maiden business. For this marathon, I'm doing the Galloway's run-walk-run method. I have been using it for the last two long runs and it had done wonders to keeping the fatigue at bay. Last Sunday's SM2SM run, I used it again and it felt good. That run was one of the few highlights on this year's running. It was well organized with lots of free stuff after but what made it explosive was my running group, TTB (Team TytsBogdo) wearing our new singlets and finishing together with a banner. It totally rocks!

Team TytsBogdo (TTB Cebu) in SM2SM Half Marathon

Everybody knows that this marathon is one of the toughest in Asia. Looking at the elevation, it certainly is with five bridge crossings as twice as long as our bridges in Mactan and two tunnel runs beneath sea level. Further there's the dreaded cut off times where they literally place a net to keep you going. It would also be the first time to run in aircon weather (13-16ºc).

Standard Chartered HK Marathon Course Elevation

Although its really not dreaded as it seems to be, It's something you just cannot underestimate as like running the marathon distance. I really don't feel the demons in my head as much as my previous two marathons. Maybe because I'm just treating it as a training run for the ultra marathon in May.

Yes, I'm running the ultra this May 1 and I am runner no. 8. Its a daunting 64k of solid and punishing uphill and downhill run across Cebu's mountain route they dubbed as "only the strong". I guess I want to experience that. I'm really psyche up for this one and may the good Lord shower me with the strength to finish this one. It would be another few months of intense training for me again. Sometimes I ask myself when I would ever have the time to chill. That may have to wait after May 1.

Shoot and Run

Rumblings of a Cebuano on a pair of running shoes and a Nikon on one hand.

About Me

My photo
Photography is my hobby, a long distance runner and an avid blogger, I consider traveling a dream and my family as my number one inspiration.