Cloudy Hill, Pat Sin Leng, Plover Cove plus plenty of sunshine
A poolside Corona or a 37km run?
35 degrees centigrade. 90% humidity. Zero cloud cover. Scorching heat. This is the kind of weather an average Joe would spend relaxing, lying on a poolside bench and sipping an ice-cold Corona. But, us? No, not the Hong Kong Trail Runners. Our way of relaxation in this weather is to go out on a mammoth scorching hot run. And not just any run. Today’s run was the mother of all heatstroke-causing runs. Cloudy Hill, Pat Sin Leng and Plover Cove. 37kms of sheer brutality with over 2200m of accumulated elevation. Extreme endurance training at its very best.
Recovery Run/Hike – Cloudy Hill, Pat Sin Leng and Plover Cove
112 – that’s the magic number. My total mileage for last week. Two words to summarize it – “too much!” So, after having already run 44kms this week, I wanted to do a lazy 37km recovery run to give my legs a chance to recover from training too much. Besides, my two teammates Vic and Romain were also uncharacteristically feeling extremely lazy. I’ll tell you why in a second but, before that, here’s what the Hong Kong Government advises people to do when there is a Typhoon 8 signal.
Typhoon 8 Precautions
Do not stand near windows on the exposed side of your home. Move all furniture and valuables away from these areas. Make sure you have a safe place to shelter, should windows be broken.
Avoid staying in the street. Return home as soon as possible if conditions so permit.
When Typhoon Kai Tak paid a visit to Hong Kong on Thursday night, my HKTR teammates had a game plan. And, it didn’t quite involve heeding HK Government’s “avoid staying in the street” precaution. Instead, in their typical insane fashion, they literally threw caution to the wind and embarked on an overnight 48km Typhoon 8 run beginning at 10.30pm, exactly when the Number 8 Typhoon Signal was hoisted. They were banking on the Signal 8 lasting throughout the night and on Friday, meaning they wouldn’t need to go to work on Friday.
They met in Yau Tong, ran the Wilson trail until Sha Tin pass and then ran stages 6,7 and 8 of the Mac, finishing at 6.30am in Route Twisk. That’s 48kms in distance and about 2500m in elevation under a Typhoon 8 signal! It was as though they disdainfully danced on the butt of the typhoon! Of course, no typhoon would have tolerated such blatant disrespect. So, in what seemed like a brutal act of sweet revenge, typhoon Kai Tak taught them a lesson by weakening just in time for work on Friday morning! That left Romain spending all day at work on Friday without having slept a wink the previous night while Vic feigned some excuse and “worked from home” on Friday (read: slept at home).
When I met Romain in the morning, unsurprisingly, he looked exhausted – both physically and mentally. Vic looked better (thanks to “working from home”) but still seemed tired from the typhoon festivities. All in all, this meant that we all were going to take today’s run very easy!
Cloudy Hill, Pat Sing Leng and a SUPER HOT Plover Cove
One of the hardest 37km courses in Hong Kong has to be Tai Wo MTR to Tai Mei Tuk via Cloudy Hill, Pat Sin Leng and Plover Cove. And when it is HOT, I promise you – you ain’t gonna love this course! It’s a true acid test of a trail runner’s ability to withstand heat!
As the whole world already knows, I own the last part of the course, i.e. Plover Cove. I can make a legitimate claim to Pat Sin Leng as well but in order to give “other people” (read: Hannes Niggli) a chance to own something, I am doing the noble thing and not contesting ownership of Pat Sin Leng. However, despite resolving the Plover Cove ownership dispute successfully and in a true gentlemanly fashion, it looked to me like Hannes wasn’t treating me like an equal partner as he unilaterally declared the following on the event page: “i have opened both properties for ‘common people’s access’ but please observe opening hours as i will close pat sin leng at 1030 and plover cove at 1300″.
8 of us showed up at Tai Wo MTR station to take on the heat and this course. Except for my teammate Vic, who was much slower than usual because of a highly intensive gym workout the previous day, we were mostly running as a group until the first hill of Pat Sin Leng.
As I was by the side of the trail on top of Pat Sin Leng, I saw Romain pass me without noticing me. I waited for the rest of the group to catch up with us and once they did, I chased after Romain. He thought I was in front of him and was running at a fast pace to “catch up” with me! That’s like the Coyote running after Road Runner! This little unintentional chase took us too far ahead of the group! By the time we reached the end of Pat Sin Leng, we were roughly 30+ minutes ahead of the group. The sun was also shining strongly and we were out of water; so, we decided to wait for the rest of the group at Wu Kau Tang. For immediate relief from the strong sun, we decided to take a much-needed dip in the Bridespool pools.
Cooling down in Bridespool
This relief from the sun was short-lived as we started our climb on Plover Cove. To give you a taste of what it was like, I am going to ask you to imagine that you are in a HOT yoga session (no, no, no, no, I mean WITHOUT the hot girls!) Now, imagine being trapped right under the source of the hot air with no escape. Next, substitute the hot yoga exercise with 17kms of trail running that includes some killer ups and downs. That is what it was like! As Romain soon discovered, that’s not a very pleasant experience! The heat takes away all the energy from the body. The views were indeed ever so beautiful, but it’s hard to appreciate beauty when you are in a beat up state!
Can you appreciate this beauty..
When you are in this state?
Unwilling to succumb to the scorching heat, we soldiered on slowly, yet steadily. Soon, we were almost out of water! I realized that the two most precious commodities under hot weather are shade and water! Then came a big surprise from Vic in the form of a text message. He was walking towards us from the other direction carrying a cargo of 5 bottles of cold water! It reminded me of my teammate Dominic’s gesture when we attempted this course under similar weather in 2010! When someone brings you cold water when you most need it, you never forget it! Thank you Vic!
Vic bringing us water
Suffering (and surviving) the last leg
A very sensible warning from the Government
And there’s only one way to aptly conclude the 37km run for the day under scorching heat. And that is to take a dip in the Plover Cove reservoir!
Chilling (literally) in my reservoir
Oh and before I forget, the icing on the cake was a special video we shot for Hannes at MY reservoir.
We were supposed to have heavy thunderstorms yesterday. So, I conveniently used Hong Kong Observatory’s weather forecast as an excuse to sleep in, instead of getting up early in the morning to do a trail run. When I finally awoke from my slumber, I was full of guilt. Trust me, an athlete succumbing to the vice called “extended sleep” is like a politician succumbing to bribe! What didn’t help one bit was the view from outside my window. The sun was shining nice and bright! I wanted to sue the Hong Kong Observatory for causing needless mental anguish. A couple of hours later, I heard heavy thunder. Soon, black clouds blanketed the skies. Within a span of a couple of hours, the skies went from being illuminated by the sun to being illuminated by frequent lightening. The guys at the observatory probably felt vindicated! I even suggested that they change their motto to: “HK Observatory, we always have the last laugh!”
The prediction for today, yet again, was heavy rain. However, there was no way we were going to fall victim to the trap of extended sleep. Besides, what was in store for the day was way too exciting. We were going to do a run covering three of Hong Kong’s most beautiful trails: Cloudy Hill, Pat Sin leng and my very own home, Plover Cove. That’s like getting a high dosage of endorphins from nature for free! The first time I attempted this run, I ran out of water in the middle of Plover Cove and was suffering from all sorts of cramps until my friend Dominic brought me water at the end of the Plover Cove dam. The second time I attempted it, I almost had a heatstroke on Plover Cove and had to walk at a snail’s pace to complete the course. It took us roughly 4.5 hours just on this leg that day.
Today, the weather seemed perfect for this run. Contrary to the Observatory’s forecast, there was hardly any rain. And, no, they didn’t have the last laugh either! In fact, it was sunny in the afternoon! I guess even the observatory boys get it wrong at times. Steven and I maintained a steady and fast pace on both Cloudy Hill and Pat Sin Leng. I attempted what I call the “tank maneuver” during a lot of the uphill stretches. What is that? Well, basically, it involves pretending that you’re a tank (I mean a US army kind of tank not a water tank!) and “rolling” up the hill effortlessly just like a tank would! (Yes, weird. Well, to each his own!) So, the idea behind this is that, when the going gets tough, the tough gets “rolling”. Unless, of course, the inclination is so high that the “tank” needs reinforcement. And, no, the tank doesn’t have a turret to fire a canon at the hill.
It took as about 3.5 hours to do Cloudy Hill, Pat Sin Leng and run to Wu Kau Tang via Bride’s pool. After refueling at a rather empty shop in Wu Kau Tang, we entered my territory, Plover Cove. Like a responsible owner, I removed random items of garbage I found strewn around on my trail. We kept a fairly comfortable pace and completed this leg of the run in 2 hours 52 minutes, feeling relatively good at the end of it. For the first time in all my attempts, I felt fresh and energized at the end of completing this course.
37 kilometers, almost 2000m in elevation, plenty of greenery and a great adrenalin rush. I couldn’t recommend this course more.
The Hong Kong observatory predicted rains 3 days back. But after looking out the window today morning, I think they changed their minds. Hot and Sunny was the theme for the day. And boy was it hot! To be attempting to climb 3 massive hills on one day required some courage and a lot of insanity. But, there’s no shortage of insane people in Hong Kong. In fact, other than my insane team of 4 members, there were 3 others who opted for some masochistic pleasure on the hills.
We started nice and early at 7am! The idea was to beat the sun. My shoes, shorts and shirt were drenched in sweat under the sweltering heat. Cloudy Hill + Pat Sin Leng claimed three lives. (Pretty much everyone else other than our core 4-member team).
The surviving 4 of us somehow made it in one piece to Wu Kau Tang to refuel. The shopkeeper at that Dai Pai Dong couldn’t quite believe our itinerary for the day. He also couldn’t believe the amount of water we ordered.
Drinking like camels
We were on Plover Cove under 35 degrees centigrade at 12 noon! The next shaky life was my very own! Barely 30 minutes into Plover Cove, I lost power and my legs and hands were literally barbecuing in the sun. Steven waited patiently for me and kept encouraging me to move slowly.
After 4 grueling hours, 36kms and 1700m in elevation, we finished without losing anyone in the team. (Insanity prevailed today).
Got up at 0600 in the morning on a Sunday (surprisingly) and instinctively decided to do Pat Sin Leng + Cloudy Hill.
I was in Tai Mei Tuk by 0800 and the weather seemed a little ominous. Some black clouds, drizzle and a lot of breeze. Climbing up Pat Sin Leng was a solo experience as I had the whole hill to myself and it was an awesome experience. Flying into the clouds alone and taking a deep breadth felt invigorating.
On the way down to Cloudy Hill, I saw the first humans on the trail. Strangely, a bunch of old grandpas and grandmas carrying umbrellas. Not sure why only the old folks manage to gather the courage to do hikes in inclement weather but not anyone else.
Cloudy Hill was awesome as usual and I saw the elites Law Chor Kin and Ida Lee again training there.
Tai Mei Tuk to last hill of Pat Sin Leng: 35 mins 57 secs
Pat Sin Leng to Cloudy Hill start: 1 hour 1 minute
Cloudy Hill start to Tai Wo KCR: 54 mins 50 secs
Distance: 17.66 km
Elevation Gain: 1,112 m
The best way to recover from a long, hard and fast trail run is to do a not-that-long, not-that-hard, not-that-fast trail run the next day. No, rest ain’t the answer.
So, after a 30km trail run yesterday, did an almost 20km “recovery” trail run today! The usual Pat Sin Leng + Cloudy Hill but much slower (very, very comfortable pace).
The problem though is that I ran out of water before I could go up to Cloudy Hill. The sting of the sun started to get to me! But, experience has taught me that when the sun hits, you just decrease speed! So, times were off but finished the run without issues. Been eating and drinking nonstop since then!
Start time: 1037 HKT
Tai Mei Tuk to the top of the first Pat Sin Leng hill: 38 minutes 9 secs
Pat Sin Leng hill to Cloudy Hill start: 1 hour 6 minutes
(Tai Mei Tuk to Cloudy Hill start via Pat Sin Leng): 1 hour 44 mins
Cloudy Hill start to Cloudy Hill to Tai Wo Station: 1 hour 6 minutes
Distance: 17.67 km
Elevation Gain: 1,119 m
Holiday today in Hong Kong on account of Ching Ming festival. It’s a festival where one is supposed to pay homage to ancestors by usually burning paper offerings on a mountain. Great festival, I think, because it forces believers to go on a hike! Hopefully, many will appreciate nature more as a result of it, thereby making the world a little less materialistic. Hmm… or maybe I am wrong because the paper offerings are designed to ensure that materialistic needs exist in afterlife! For instance, many are burning iPad paper offerings to ensure non-stop entertainment for their loved ones post death. But, thinking about it some more, after burning those offerings, they have to come back down from the mountains on beautiful trails anyway. So, I’m still hoping the family hiking trip will increase awareness of nature.
Anyway, digressed there a bit.. the idea was to do Pat Sin Leng + Cloudy Hill (short hike as I had to be back in the afternoon).
Starting time: 1015 HKT
Time taken from Tai Mei Tuk bus stop to the last Pat Sin Leng hill: 34 mins 28 secs
Time taken from last Pat Sin Leng hill to the start of Cloudy Hill: 59 mins 14 secs
(Total time from Tai Mei Tuk to Pat Sing Leng to beginning of Cloudy Hill): 1 hour 33 minutes
From beginning of Cloudy Hill to summit to Tai Wo KCR station: 51 mins 30 seconds
Distance: 17.81 km
Elevation Gain: 1,100 m