NEMM Recci (HKTR 2012 Training)

You want to get some effective acupuncture treatment done for free? I’ve got a great solution for you and it costs zilch! Ride a motorbike at 100kmh in pouring rain! Each drop of rain hitting the body at that speed will feel like a whiplash!

So, that’s how the day started. On my way to Wu Kau Tang (NEMM starting point), it started pouring down heavily as I was riding my motorbike on the expressway. It was an awesome acupuncture treatment sponsored a 100% by nature.

Four super fast runners showed up for the 30K run – Nora, Rom, Vic and Rupert. The NEMM course is stunning. Very green and a lot of it is actual trail running. But, today, due to the wet weather, it was EXTRA slippery. I fell elegantly on my butt a couple of times while Rupert (inelegantly) fell sideways to avoid damage to his head but ended up with a knee bruise. A serious chunk of the trail on the way to Sam A Tsuen from Luk Keng was very overgrown. Note to self: cover thy sexy legs during the race to avoid battle scars. (It also saves plenty of time).

The NEMM organizers seemed to have cleverly saved the best for last. At the 26th or 27th kilometer of the 30km run, there was a big daddy hill which felt like a 350m vertical climb. The views from up there were absolutely stunning. Seriously – Hong Kong has some amazingly incredible natural beauty.

Romain chilling at a mini pool on the way back to Wu Kau Tang

Second life to recover from the heat!

Continue reading – more dazzling pictures ahead!

Northeast Mountain Marathon (NEMM) recci

Think “swanky shops” in Hong Kong and Central will come to mind. Think “night market” and Mong Kok will come to mind. Think “missy massages” and Tsim Sha Tsui will come to mind. And think “nature” in Hong Kong and Tai Po will come to mind! Tai Po is the epicenter of some of the best and most pristine trails in Hong Kong. Put a trail runner in the vicinity of Wu Kau Tang in Tai Po and he/she will be like a little kid in a playground.

Today, we did a recce of one of the best courses around Tai Po – the Northeast Mountain Marathon course. It’s about 30km long and features some awesome trail running. Towards the end of the course, you really feel high and I mean that quite literally. Just around the 26th kilometer of the 30km course, you end up climbing a steep 400m high hill! Another feature of this race is its rather unique ability to weed out the party goers from the non-party goers. How does it do that? Well, the race takes place every year on NEW YEAR’S DAY!! So, as you can imagine, only the non-drinking runner equivalent of Cinderellas who have to be home by 12am can afford to participate!

Steven, Vic and I gathered early morning at 7.30am in Wu Kau Tang. We were joined by our “virtual partner” (i.e. the “racer” version of yours truly on the Garmin watch). I copied the course onto my watch from this very race I did on Jan 1, 2012 (yes, I am no party goer either). Each time we went the wrong way, I’d have both the voice of Garmin and the voice of wisdom (Steven) correct me.

The trails around Wu Kau Tang were at their natural best! The beautiful new leaves and blooming spring time flowers sent a waft of natural fragrance through the air! Running along vegetation rich trails beaming with different shades of green sent the endorphins buzzing inside us. Our friends in the animal kingdom seemed to enjoy the ambiance too. Insects seemed to be doing the human equivalent of hunting-for-girls-in-Lan-Kwai-Fong-on-a-Friday-night, except, their “Friday night” extends through the whole of spring!

Insects havin’ a buzzin’ time!

Sha Tau Kok/Nam Chung/Luk Keng area. Vic, Steven in the foreground and the great PRC is in the distant backdrop

The Wu Kau Tang fire lookout place. The fireman “looking out” here has a great job! Splendid views and no fire!

Here’s Pat Sin Leng, i.e, “8 peaks”. But aren’t there more than 8 peaks?? Shouldn’t it be “Sup Yath Sin Leng”, i.e. “11 peaks”

Building failure, lift failure, life failure, etc, we have all heard. But, who has heard of a “TREE FAILURE”? Picture taken in the Lai Chi Wo area

This is how honey is grown. (1) get a white box (2) get a bee (3) buzz off (4) open box and voila! Honey I am home!

Cute face standing guard?

Climbin’ the final hill

Standing tall 420m above sea-level

NEMM 2013, consider me registered.



Northeast Mountain Marathon 2012 and ‘The Art of Mountain Marathon’

The bullet-proof plan
It was a foolproof plan. In fact, the strategy for it was carefully formed after years of devotion to the proven ancient wisdom of Sun Tzu – the scholarly Chinese military general who authored the book ‘The Art of War’ during the BC era. It ended up being THE book on planning for successful military strategies. Since he wrote the original version, there have been far too many interpretations of his teachings in various fields other than the military. Top CEOs swear by his principles, politicians base their moves only after studying the effect of his teachings, driven professionals adopt his rules in their careers, and as a budding athlete, I made it a point to apply his wisdom as a winning strategy for my first race in 2012 – The Northeast Mountain Marathon race (NEMM) which was to be held on Jan 1st, 2012.

The more I researched Sun Tzu and the principles attributed to him, the more it appeared to fall under the bracket of pure common sense. Each of his principles was no doubt coined in such a manner that it sounded highly philosophical and oozed of knowledge, but the application of each principle was largely subject to one’s own imagination. Here’s an example. One of his principles says: “If you do not know others and do not know yourself you are destined for failure in every battle”. After reading this, the string of thoughts that hit my brain ran in this order: (a) Wow! That’s deep man! (b) So, he’s pretty much saying that if you are ignorant and don’t know what you are doing, you will not succeed? (c) Actually, ain’t that obvious? (c) Hmm.. looks like he is simply stating the obvious with a philosophical touch to it.

Application of ancient wisdom in a mountain marathon
In fact, I thought I could have easily come up with my very own principle: “He who always remembers to wear his underwear before his trousers will rarely face embarrassments” (superman excluded). See, that sounds deep, doesn’t it? But, it’s just common sense! And if I end up being a successful person in the future, I’m sure entrepreneurs out there will have ten different versions of my “scholarly” saying. I can imagine some entrepreneur releasing a book called “The interpretations of Vice Natteri’s sayings in the travel industry”. Principle 1: “He who always remembers to wear his underwear before his trousers will rarely face embarrassments” . Interpretation: ” The highly successful individual will always get travel insurance BEFORE leaving on vacation”.

Anyway, I digress. So, the point I was originally trying to make is that I did apply several of Sun Tzu’s principles from ‘The Art of War’ in my race today. Let’s call my interpretations of these rules ‘The Art of Running Mountain Marathons’.

Principle 1: Know your enemy and know yourself and in 100 battles you will never be in peril.
Application: I knew my enemies (fellow racers). They were all probably partying hard on December 31st in Lan Kwai Fong and will likely suffer from a hangover on Jan 1st

Principle 2: Attack by surprise – all warfare is based on deception.
Application: I will pretend like I will be partying on December 31st but in reality, I will sleep at 10pm and get my beauty sleep in before the race

Principle 3: Avoid what is strong. Attack what is weak.
Application: I know I can’t match my enemies in terms of speed and general running ability. Instead, I will prey on their weakness – weakness for alcohol that is! I will race on a day when they will either likely not be there or will be severely hung over from the effect of New Year parties. Victory shall be mine! HA HA HA! (devilish laughter in the background).

And so, I entered this race armed with teachings from ‘The Art of Running Mountain Marathons’. My winning strategy was simply based on the top runners NOT participating.

Jan 1st 2011
I rode my motorbike straight to Wu Ka Tang at 7.20am and was there by 8am. Content with my careful application of Sun Tzu’s racing interpretations, I strutted to the registration desk. Familiar faces filled the registration area. A look in every direction revealed that I wasn’t the only one practicing Sun Tzu’s principles. So were all the other super fast racers! Damn. I didn’t see the point in preaching those principles to everyone under the sun so they could also practice! If everyone applies his principles and “attacks by surprise” then the attack ain’t gonna be no surprise! Anyway, my hopes of winning went down the drain (I “know my enemies” well enough to recognize that I ain’t no match for them) so I resorted to what I normally do – just relax, run as fast as possible comfortably and just chill.

2 minutes before the race commenced, the race organizer said something in Chinese to pump everyone up (next time, Engman also mgoi) and off we went at 8.30am. There was a huge “running” jam in the beginning. Racers were trying to overtake each other from every available direction on a narrow trail. I kept my cool and knew that “the path will get wider and the light will shine sooner or later” (notice that self-constructed philosophical sentence – I am getting better at this stuff). And yes, the path did get wider (I am a genius) and the light did shine brighter (actually, that was just my imagination). Anyway, the trail went from Wu Kau Tang to Bridespool and then it went up Pat Sin Leng. There were plenty of overtaking opportunities there and the natural pecking order of racers was being formed. The slow guys who went too fast in the beginning were burning out and returning to their natural speeds. The fast ones being held back by the “running” jam in the beginning were now taking the lead.

The course seemed like a runner’s course for the first 20km or so but after that it looked like the race directors were “attacking by surprise” as well (how come everyone is such a big fan on Sun Tzu?) There were two huge, steep hills to climb in the last 5km or so. The first was in my very own territory (Plover Cove) and that gave me some comfort. Nothing like being in your own backyard during a race. However, my backyard ain’t no walk in the park. There are plenty of ups and downs – enough to cause any racer to wear out. The second hill was a nasty one. Nasty not only because it was a 400m steep climb to the top but also because it came right near the end of the race. It gave me a feeling of “so near yet so far”. The way down from that steep hill involved plenty of bushwhacking (now I know why fellow racers were wearing long compression gears).

I had one minor ankle twist on the way down from that last hill but finished comfortably in 3 hours 28 minutes. I came #5 overall which was a bit of surprise. My natural spot in the pecking order of racers is more like #15 or #20. Looks like Sun Tzu’s principles worked after all!

Happy New Year to all readers and remember, “he who always remembers to wear his underwear before his trousers will rarely face embarrassments”.

NEMM – North East Mean Machines! (parked in Wu Ka Tang)

On the way to Wu Kau Tang – Hong Kong is beautiful

Riding in style!

And btw, I forgot to mention that the map for this race looks like a butterfly!

Garmin says 3.30 as I forgot to turn it off in all the excitement! Actual time was 3.28.



NEMM 2012 Recci (well, almost the real course minus Rambo parts)

Pictures here.

Two of my favorite courses in New Territories have to be (a) King of the Hills – Tai Po and (b) North East Mountain Marathon. There is actually quite a lot of overlap between the two of them!

With the 100Km Oxfam Trailwalker looming ahead in a week’s time (btw, please don’t be cheap – sponsor our team! Ok, fine, I beg ya! I plead ya! Please, please, please!), Dom and I decided to recci the NEMM 2012 circuit at a fast walking pace.

Ok, so why is the NEMM circuit so cool? Four irresistible reasons!

1) If you plot the course on a map, it looks like a butterfly. No kidding! Ok, fine, you have to use your imagination a little bit but here you go.

Use your imagination and see the butterfly. If you can’t see it, you ain’t got no imagination!

Confession: We skipped some portions but still, it looks like a butterfly!

2) It starts and ends in Wu Kau Tang so you can ride your motorbike to one of the most beautiful roads in Hong Kong – the road from Tai Mei Tuk to Wu Kau Tang! The ride makes you forget about all the problems in the world! (if you care – that is). And if you don’t have a motorbike, no problem! You can still enjoy the infrequent bus ride!

3) You won’t see any tall buildings en route. All greenery and nothin’ else but greenery. Gives you the feeling of a real getaway while still being only 40 mins away from the heart of Hong Kong!

4) There is a “special area” on the trail. More about that below.

The “elite” course is 25Km long and goes like this: Wu Kau Tang > Bride’s Pool > Wang Shan Keuk Tsuen > Sir Edward Pavilion > Luk Keng > Kai Kuk Shue Ha > Fung Hang Country Trail > Golden Dragon Ridge > Fire Lookout > Ar Ma Fat > Fan Shui Au > Lai Chi Wo > Sam A Tsuen > Sam A Chung > Ha Miu Tin > Wang Leng Au > Kau Tam Tso > Tiu Tang Lung > Fan Kei Tok > Wu Kau Tang (25Km)

If that doesn’t make sense, I suggest you simply go to Wu Kau Tang and wing it! You will get at least 10-20% of this right! So, Dom and I started in Wu Kau Tang and were on course for most of the way. The visibility was simply awesome (tip: discount “awesome” as this is hazy Hong Kong) and we could almost see as far as the snipers on the hills of Shenzhen training their AK47s on would-be illegal immigrants (use imagination again please).

Robin’s nest is in the background and Shenzhen can be seen as well – use imagination!

Believe it or not, I own that little island and the mountain ridge behind it

Excellent view of those buildings which may either be in Shenzhen or in Hong Kong – your guess is as good as mine

Our CNO for the day – Chief Navigation Officer

Dom is soaking in the beauty of nature

This poor lizard is stuck in the notice board!

One thing that’s gotta be remembered about this circuit is that it gets SUPER HARD at the end. At around the 20th kilometer, one has to climb to Plover Cove (yet another one of my properties in Hong Kong) and go through parts of that beautiful undulating ridge. And after returning to ground level, there is a super massive climb up to something like 400m to some hill (don’t ask me what it’s called) and then there’s a steep downhill back to Wu Kau Tang where the circuit ends! And one more thing one has to bear in mind is that if something is very hard to do, it needn’t be done! And so, we safely skipped both the Plover Cove ridge and this super climb! Instead, we took a shortcut back to Wu Kau Tang. Philosophical tip on life: “Life is full of shortcuts, you just have to find them and take them”. Yup, that’s a genuine quote from yours truly!

And so, we did about 23km for the day before returning to Wu Kau Tang. Oh and before I forget, there is a “special area” on this trail. It’s called Lai Chi Wo. Dom doesn’t think this is so special but several dozen mainland tourists sure think otherwise! In fact, we even saw a Hong Kong tour group on this trail. Oh, in case you don’t know the definition of “Hong Kong tour group” it is – “a bunch of typically old and mostly mainland tourists following some dude carrying a red flag and a megaphone”. Of course, the tourists walk at a snail’s pace (or maybe the snail is faster). Anyway, so this area is famous for its banyan trees. Dom thinks that the Peak has more worthy banyan trees but I think that Lai Chi Wo (minus tourists) is far more beautiful. Here, take a look:

Aren’t the trees gorgeous?

Overall, I think the NEMM circuit is a fantastic course for trail runners. Fabulous running for the first 20km (only about 10-20% concrete and some super massive hills at the end for the Rambos). Today, we took a break from being Rambos but we are Rambos, I assure you! The race is to be held on New Year’s day (January 1st 2012) and you tell me – what can be a better way to usher in the new year other than to run 25km in the wilderness of Hong Kong! (Alright, maybe “wilderness” is a bit of an exaggeration as the only animal you will likely come across on this trail is that lonely lizard stuck in a notice board – see picture above). But, you do get to enjoy the countryside of Hong Kong! And as an added bonus, there probably won’t be any tourist groups on that day…



NEMM Circuit

NEMM stands for North East Mountain Marathon, well, because the circuit runs in the Northern District of Hong Kong. It begins in Wu Kau Tang, goes along the Plover Cove reservoir until Marker 2306 and then there’s a sharp left turn straight down to Sam A Tsuen and eventually to Lai Chi Wo. There’s a mammoth 400m climb in between too. This course offers some of the BEST views of natural scenery in Hong Kong. You can see Ma On Shaan, Plover Cove, Pat Sin Leng, Shenzhen (Ok, maybe Shenzhen shouldn’t be included in the ‘Natural Scenery’ part) and plenty of blue sea!

We started in Wu Kau Tang at 0938. It was hot and humid but there was a lot of cloud cover thankfully. The run went as per plan and we stopped for water at Sam A Tsuen and one more place.

On the way to Luk Keng, I was at the front and went the wrong way. Luckily for those behind me, they didn’t follow me! I ended up going to some remote village in Luk Keng and had to do an extra 5km jog to reach mainstream Luk Keng. I think I also spotted some IIs (Illegal Immigrants) in an abandoned house in a village in Luk Keng. Or maybe, it was just a figment of my imagination (I watch too many crime stories on Discovery Channel – for entertainment purposes only!)

Steven was probably the only guy to finish the circuit. I stopped at Luk Keng after that little getting-lost excursion and had a well-deserved bowl of noodles. I couldn’t be bothered to continue for another 8km on a flat road.

Beautiful circuit! On my list of races for 2011!

Time: 05:28:55
Distance: 25.59 km
Elevation Gain: 1,043 m