The Green “Italian” Power 2014

Author: ltcommander  //  Category: Green Power, THE RACES



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The Green “Italian” Power 2014

The Italian connection
I have worn a French cap, a Canadian cap and a Dutch cap before on races. Today was the first time I wore an Italian cap. I chose to be “Giuseppe” for the day — my injured teammate who gave me his bib which allowed me to participate in the Green Power 25km run. So, I was proud to be Italiano for the day. I just had some teething problems with my newfound identity:

(1) I don’t even know how to pronounce Giuseppe. Some say you have to say the “e” at the end (Ju-se-pi) whereas others recommend dropping the “e” (Ju-se-p). Which is the right way? Solo Dio Lo Sa! (Only God knows) Also, all the fine things that Italy is known for, like Expressos and fine coffee, well, I don’t even drink coffee! Heck, I don’t even know how to say ‘thank you’ in Italian.

But, worry not, I got away wearing my French cap last year without knowing any French whatsoever. And, trust me, my Italian pronunciation beats my French pronunciation any day! For instance, I didn’t even know that Benoit was to be pronounced Ben-wah. I always thought it was to be read the same way it’s spelt (kind of like German). So, Benoit, according to me, would have been Ben-o-it and Francois would have been Frank-o-ise, NOT the fancy schmancy Fan-Sua.

But, luckily for me, I know for a fact that I am certainly not the only one who is, let’s say, linguistically challenged. A friend of mine (let’s call her ‘S’), thought that Guillaume was pronounced Gu-La-Mi. And, why shouldn’t it be? Can you imagine how much simpler this world would be if people pronounced names the same way they are spelt? Ok, before I go a little too off topic, let me just conclude by saying that when I run for President, I will ban names that aren’t pronounced the way they are spelt. I know two people who will instantaneously feel happy about this ban! Yours truly and my friend “S”.

(2) 25km is way too short. I don’t even begin to pollute the environment with my farts until the 30-35km mark. (Wait, maybe that’s a good thing for the general public). Anyway, it takes me 20km to warm up and get into the zone! A 25km race is a little too short for me. John Rambo won’t be proud of me for saying this but I am little afraid of living in the pain cave!

In any case, a free bib is always hard to refuse. So, off I went on the race.

That Start Line
There were many familiar faces at the start – Dwyfor, Oscar and Martin. Dwyfor looked strong despite having done the Hong Kong 100 just 6 days back! He told me that he was having some sort of problem with his thigh muscles and today’s race was a test for him. Oscar also did the Hong Kong 100 last week but still looked all gung ho and was raring to go. Moray, came in much later to the start line, as all VVIPs do. Being the generous guy he always is, he told me that he was going to give me a head start.

Then came an important announcement from Bernard about incinerators (I think he’s some dude from the Government). Apparently, 52% of the waste Hong Kong produces everyday can’t be recycled and has to be dumped at a landfill. This is because Hong Kong doesn’t have incinerators and people adopt a “not in my backyard” attitude towards the construction of one. I remembered my Swiss friend Hannes telling me about an incinerator that was located smack bang in the middle of Zurich. I thought to myself why Hong Kong couldn’t do that if Zurich could build a zero-polluting incinerator right in the middle of the city. As I was dwelling on that thought, the countdown began and, in an instant, I snapped out of that thought and began running. Dwyfor and Oscar shot off like rockets in front of me.

Cruising to Dragon’s Back
I kept exchanging places with two guys all the way until Mount Parker. I would get them on the downhill and they would get me on the uphill. I saw David at the bottom of Mount Parker who told me that I was in the 4th position. I switched to cruising mode to prepare myself for the horrible 8km reservoir stretch that I knew was coming. I saw Retha by the Tai Tam bridge and we yelled “Pain is weakness leaving the body” before I went past her. Just before embarking on the dreadful 8km reservoir stretch, I saw Angel and someone else who were clapping as I went past. Nothing like being encouraged like that on a race! It made my day. Then came the godforsaken 8km reservoir stretch but I was prepared for that. I had my collection of punk rock and gangsta music to keep me company. I was wondering where Dwyfor was but I immediately blocked that thought. I’ve learnt that in races, you’ve gotta curb those “who-is-where” questions and play your own game.

There were a bunch of hikers on Dragon’s Back. I mgoied my way through the crowd and overtook quite a few people. My thoughts drifted to our Green Power Race in 2013 and how my teammate Viv taught me the little French I know during the Dragon’s Back segment (he was in pain and swearing quite a bit in French!) I approached the final downhill stretch on Dragon’s Back and turned on my heavy breathing mode which automatically did the “mgoi” for me.

Full blast to the finish
I saw Nick on the last technical stretch (he was doing the 50km). I overtook him and kept my pace consistent until the last downhill stretch – my favorite stretch. I remembered how we won the Green Power 2013 race by ten seconds on this very downhill stretch. I notched up the volume on my Mp3 player and ran downhill like there was no tomorrow. I overtook quite a few on that stretch.

And the score is…
My friend Dom saw me at the finish line and told me that I (I mean Giuseppe) came 4th overall and finished in 2 hours and 11 minutes. My man Dwyfor finished about a minute ahead of me and came in 3rd (this is despite all the mileage he cranked up the previous weekend plus his thigh muscle problems). The winner finished in 2 hours 02 minutes and the guy who came second (I think Alex is his name) finished in 2 hours and 9 minutes or something similar. Oscar finished in 2 hours and 15 minutes! Just 4 minutes after me and, you have to remember, I did nothing the past weekend whereas Oscar ran a 100kms!

But, you ask me, my personal Rambo award for the day has to go to John who ran 100km last weekend in 13 hours on a swollen ankle and finished running 50km today in 4 hours and 12 minutes. He came 4th overall. Oh, btw, his ankle is still swollen!

I guess the takeaway is that the human body is simply remarkable. There is a Rambo in each and every one of us! But, unfortunately, the same can’t be said about the human mind. Well, at least, my human mind! I still can’t pronounce Giuseppe and my Italian still sucks.

Gracias for reading.

PS. Giuseppe, thanks for the bib dude! Go Italy! :)



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TNF 100 — Course markings and the adventure of being part of Linda’s rescue team!

Author: ltcommander  //  Category: THE RACES, TNF 100



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Our early morning mission
The original plan was to support my friends at Hong Kong’s newest solo 50km/100km trail running event — The North Face 100 (TNF 100). One of the most green and beautiful courses that Hong Kong has to offer. The day started very early at 5.30am when I got on my motorbike to rendezvous with my fellow support crew in Tai Mei Tuk, Tai Po.

Our mission was to pre-run Sections 1/2/3 of the race to ensure that the course markings were in place for the official start at 8am. Here’s us with the markings:

Yours truly, Tilly, Hannes and Dom proudly holding up the signs – courtesy Nick

We ran Section 1 together and then split up into two separate teams at the end of Section 1. Tilly and I were to run Section 2 while Dom, Hannes and Nick were going to run Section 3.

As Tilly and I were nearing the end of Section 2, the lead runners were already starting to pass us by. First we saw a Nepali guy who was leading the pack and looked like he was floating instead of running. In around the 4th place or so was our very own local celebrity and Lantau Base Camp owner Jeremy. As he ran past us with the ease of an accomplished runner, I commented that he could have used another haircut. He nodded his head to acknowledge my unwanted comment before disappearing swiftly into the horizon like a mountain goat.

Jeremy looking strong but could have used another haircut – photo courtesy Daniel

Shamelessly seizing our five seconds of fame
As Tilly and I came closer to the finish of Section 2, random photographers mistook us for runners and readied their heavy cameras to take photos of the two of us. One shrewd female photographer raised her camera and pointed it towards me as I prepared to strike one of my natural model-like poses but she quickly spotted the scotch tape I was carrying in my right hand — the one I used for sticking course markings on trees — and immediately lowered her camera. Damn! I quickly learnt my lesson. I hid the scotch tape under one of the course marking signs I was carrying in my other hand and made sure that I was going to be part of other “runner” photos that were being taken! (Yes, shameless self-promotion comes to me naturally).

Linda looking ApeFit! and approaching CP2

After spending about 45 minutes at Checkpoint 2, I ran back to Tai Mei Tuk where my motorbike was parked and rode it to Checkpoint 3 — Luk Keng.

Trouble in paradise
I approached CP3 with my eyes set on a heavy breakfast at a local chachanteng in Luk Keng. I wanted some company though — so, I approached Dom and Tilly who were busy supporting runners at CP3. Just as I prepared to distract them from their duties with an interesting idea of setting up the first illegal trail running bookie system for Hong Kong, another friend of mine, Michael interrupted me with news about Linda’s misfortune.

“Can I ask you to take me to Wau Ku Tong?” he asked. “Linda is injured and can’t walk. She is around 4kms into Section 3″, he said, sounding worried.

My memory flashed back to 3 years ago when I was running the Oxfam Trailwalker. I remembered being hungry, tired and suffering as I was running Stage 6 with my team. Linda was there by Tai Po Road along with Hannes and offered me potatoes. She also offered my teammate a pain relieving balm and lifted our spirits by giving us the encouragement we needed.

So, naturally, this was my turn to repay her. Before we set off on my motorbike to Wu Kau Tang, I told Michael that it wasn’t “Wau Ku Tong”, it was Wu Kau Tang! (yes, that’s me being pedantic). Michael tried calling the Race Paramedics at Wu Kau tang in an attempt to launch some sort of a remote rescue mission for Linda. He figured that he would run Section 3 along with a paramedic to get her off the trail.

Once we reached Wu Kau Tang though, it became evident that no paramedic was going to be running with Michael to rescue Linda. And, that’s when my mission changed from one of “Transport Michael to Wu Kau Tang” to “Rescue Linda with Michael”.

Linda, Linda, where are you?
Michael and I first ran to the medical tent at CP2 from Wu Kau Tang Car Park to again check whether the paramedics were doing something about Linda. We got confused replies at best. That’s when we decided to go rescue Linda ourselves. Michael phoned her to let her know that we were coming to help her and bring her back to Wu Kau Tang.

We set off on Section 3 and started gaining elevation. We began to overtake many of the slower runners and hikers. Michael was getting hot as he was wearing a windbreaker and long pants. I saw my friend Linda there (not the injured Linda but another Linda — an uninjured one!) As Linda and I were briefly chitchatting, I heard Michael shout from behind, “hang on, let me remove my pants”.

Linda looked at me with a bewildered expression on her face. “I am not sure I needed to hear that!” she exclaimed. I assured her that Michael was probably wearing running shorts underneath. She seemed relieved.

We then ran and ran but there was no sign of Linda. There were many technical bits and as beautiful as the trail was, it demanded proper legs to negotiate all the twists and turns. On one such downhill stretch, around 4-5kms into Section 3, I saw someone lying down by the side of the trail, sporting a radiant smile and encouraging all the hikers as they were coming through. I thought this person was a photographer and continued to run, but upon closer examination, I realized that this person was in fact, the person we had come to rescue — our friend Linda! The injured Linda? I was confused. Her beaming smile completely masked any pain she was feeling inside. The only giveaway was her foot. She was wearing Vibram’s Five Fingers and one leg looked awkwardly positioned, as though it was deliberately being lifted to take all pressure off of it. I probed further to understand the full story.

A snapped tendon, the kindness of fellow hikers and Linda’s bravery
“I heard it snap!” Linda said, in a rather cool tone of voice, referring to what she thought was her tendon. She explained that her already-weak tendon probably gave in to stress as she hit a sharp rock and heard the noise of something tear.

It sounded quite gruesome the way she described it. She added that many runners then stopped to ensure she was alright and some of them even offered to walk with her and help her get to the next exit point. Linda being Linda though, didn’t want others to sacrifice their run for her. So, she politely declined and resorted to pretending to be a cheerleader and sat by the corner of the trail encouraging runners as they went past her! Some of her friends saw through this act and insisted on helping her! She told them that help was already on its way (Michael and I) and requested them to continue! Linda then told us how happy and relieved she felt to know that we were coming. (when I heard that, I felt very glad to have been there. Nothing like helping someone when they really need it!)

Lesson in mobility of the injured: “Dog Kick” move, arm carrying and piggybacking
So, how do you take an injured person out of a technical trail? I realized today that the answer is not as easy as it may seem!

First, Linda demonstrated her newly learnt way of walking on one foot. She claimed that she had been successfully deploying this tactic over the past kilometer or so when she was on her own. I took her bag and she started demonstrating by transforming herself into what looked like a 3-legged animal with a tail sticking out from the back. The “3 legs” were her hands and her working leg which were bearing all her weight. And, the “tail” was her injured leg which she held up high so it was facing the sky. She then trotted using her hands while hopping on one foot at the same time. Michael and I watched in amazement and disbelief! As clever as this new move looked, both of us knew that it wouldn’t take her very far! Her move reminded me of one of our Circuit Training exercises called the “Dog Kick move”, which involves a similar 3-legged transformation with the exception of bending one leg at the knee level and kicking into the sky at frequent intervals instead of simply lifting it.

Michael and I told Linda that as impressive as her new gait was, we had to come up with another idea! At that time Linda was also receiving multiple calls from various TNF medical crew asking for her whereabouts. I spoke to them and told them that we would make our own way to Wu Kau Tang and didn’t need to be rescued anymore.

Michael and I then tried supporting Linda by standing on either side of her and having her use our shoulders for support while hopping on one foot. But, this wasn’t quite working either — the climb back upto Wu Kau Tang was so technical and the trail was so narrow that 3 people walking side by side wasn’t an effective solution. Also, we were blocking all the other hikers from coming though.

Then came Michael’s piggybacking idea. He explained to us how he had some significant experience with piggybacking from back in the day and asked Linda to piggyback on him. It sort of worked — for a minute! Then we swapped. I tried getting Linda to piggyback on me and proudly announced that I was going into “endurance mode”. Endurance mode! What a joke! Embarrassingly, I couldn’t “endure” for longer than a minute! The inclination plus the added weight on my back meant frequent rest breaks. But, heck, both piggybacking and even arm carrying beat Linda’s “dog kick” maneuver by far!

A change in plan and the fire services get involved!
Our “rescue” plan was simple enough: Michael and I would take turns with the piggybacking and transport Linda back to Wu Kau Tang. It would have taken quite some time but it looked like it was our most effective way of getting her to the nearest road. That changed when we met two random hikers — Gordon and his wife. They suggested to us that we should go the opposite direction (towards Luk Keng) and take a boat out of Lai Chi Wo Ferry Pier which was only 20 minutes away from where we first met Linda. The local villagers could then arrange for us to take a boat to another accessible part of Hong Kong. The choice was between a 20-minute piggybacking session to Lai Chi Wo Ferry pier and a 3-hour piggybacking session to Wu Kau Tang. In hindsight, the decision was a no-brainer. But, we thought hard. Not because we didn’t see the merit in Gordon’s suggestion but because we felt bad about undoing all our piggybacking effort in the past ten minutes or so! But, we quickly came to our senses and took their suggestion. Gordon’s wife also generously lent her hiking pole to us. So, off we went, in the reverse direction. Michael proved his expertise in piggybacking quickly and we were covering quite some distance, especially since we were going downhill.

A random hiker saw the three of us and inquired, “you guys are going to do the 50km this way?”
Linda, who was consistently laughing at our predicament replied, “yes, we just did 18kms like this with only 32kms left to go!” It was hilarious.

Then came another phone call. It seemed like the medical guys we contacted earlier had reported our status to the HK Fire Services division. Someone called me and asked if we needed an ambulance and a helicopter! I consulted with Linda and Michael. Although all of us were a little excited about the thrill of a helicopter rescue, Linda felt that the chopper was an overkill. So, we said “thanks but no thanks” to the offer of a helicopter rescue. At least we were saving our taxpayers’ money. The HK Fire Services guy told me that they were sending a rescue team (police and paramedics) to get us off the trail. They had already started looking for us and were at the start of Section 3 in Wu Kau Tang. I told them that our plans had changed and we would be going to Lai Chi Wo Ferry pier. We agreed that we would stay put once reaching the ferry pier and they would meet us there.

Improvised piggybacking technique and the thwup-thwup-thwup of a chopper
The technical bits and the downhill stretch were finally over as we took turns with the piggybacking and brought Linda to the final 2km flat stretch towards Lai Chi Wo village. We then heard the loud and unmistakable thwup-thwup-thwup of the HK Flying Services chopper. It was hovering and making low altitude passes around the coast in search of someone — US! With Linda piggybacking on Michael at that point, I took the liberty of being the Hollywood movie star who’d wave at an overhead chopper to get the pilot to come and rescue us! Thinking back, it’s quite amusing how both in movies and in real life, one could possibly believe that shouting at a flying chopper would have any effect whatsoever. But, I still shouted! And so did Michael and Linda! At least it gave us some thrill. We are beginning to really enjoy the experience!

In the meantime, Michael perfected his piggybacking technique. He got Linda to sit on his shoulders instead of holding onto his back.

Michael’s Piggybacking 101
Step 1 — Get ready and SMILE!

Step 2 — Launch yourself on the shoulder

Step 3 — Get ready to rock and roll!

The finale
I asked a Lai Chi Wo villager for the direction towards the ferry pier. He pointed us towards the coast. The noise from the chopper also intensified. Given the wider and flatter path, we were back to supporting Linda by walking on either side of her and having her use our shoulders for support. A TNF runner/hiker came through and looked at the three of us with curiosity.

“You hear the chopper?” Michael motioned to this lady hiker as he pointed upwards. “It’s coming for us!” he said, sounding like a man of authority. She looked amazed. It felt like we had our own private transportation out of there!

We were finally at the pier after about 30-45 minutes of our piggybacking adventure. Michael spotted a red plastic bag near a junkyard and like an episode from MacGyver, he resourcefully tied the plastic bag to the end of Gordon’s hiking pole to create our makeshift chopper signaling gizmo. He then waved his little contraption at the chopper in what looked like a scene from the movie Cast Away!

Michael waving our makeshift signaling equipment at the chopper

Given Michael’s accurate signaling equipment, we were sure that the rescue was going to come only in a matter of minutes. So, we took a group “rescue” photo to preserve the excitement of the moment.

Yours truly, Linda and Michael — preserving the moment in a photo!

Mr. Cool gets off the chopper
The chopper turned towards us and starting losing altitude. It came so close to us that I could see a figure standing inside the chopper wearing a helmet. I waved to this person and I could see him reciprocating with a thumbs up! Let’s call this person Mr. Cool. I was half expecting him to rappel down from a hovering chopper like one of the US Navy Seals but he seemed to be too chilled out for that. The helicopter gently touched down about 30 meters in front of us.

The hiker lady we saw moments ago seemed to have forgotten about the TNF race and was busy taking photos of the chopper! I asked her if she wanted a picture of her with the chopper in the background. The answer was obvious! I took a photo of her on her mobile phone after which she realized that she’d have to get going to make the cut-off time for the next checkpoint. She wished us well and we parted ways.

The HK Flying Services Chopper sent out just for us

After the chopper landed, Mr. Cool simply stepped out of the chopper the way one would step out from a plain old bus and then walked towards us slowly with a cool expression on his face. Linda, on the other hand, felt like all this was just a little too much for her! She was justifying to me her reasons for calling the medical team in the first place. She told me that she had no choice but to call the TNF Medical Team as she couldn’t walk. And, the first thing she said to Mr. Cool as he approached us, was that we didn’t ask for a chopper! I told Linda that it would have been foolish for her to not call the medical team. As ApeFit! as she is, I assured her that by calling the medical team she did the responsible thing and saved herself from long term injury. I asked her to enjoy the moment and the chopper ride too. And, then I delivered my punch line. “You will also save on the taxi fare back home!”

Mr. Cool dismissed Linda’s “we didn’t ask for a helicopter” protest with a “don’t worry. It’s alright”. He then looked at the three of us with a big smile on his face. He looked like an astronaut in a green uniform and a matching green helmet.

“Linda?” he inquired, to ensure that we were the ones he had come to rescue. We nodded. He then gave Michael and I two instructions.

1. Help Linda get to the chopper
2. Once Linda is in the chopper move away and get back to the trail. (He cruelly squashed my hopes for my first ever helicopter ride)

Linda piggybacked on Michael for the final 30m as we crossed the marshy coastal area and headed towards the revving chopper. We could feel the power of the giant rotors as it splashed sea water from the coast onto our faces. As we got closer, the thwoop-thwoop noise of the rotor was superseded by the noise of a loud diesel engine — the kind you’d hear on the lower deck of the Star Ferry. We ensured that Linda was inside, waved goodbye to her and headed back towards the trail as per Mr. Cool’s instructions. We then waved goodbye to Linda and the chopper crew as they lifted off.

Michael and I then high-fived each other to celebrate our first ever rescue attempt and prepared for the 5km run back to Wu Kau Tang. Deep inside though, I wished the helicopter would have dropped us at Wu Kau Tang en route!

The real deal
Linda told us how beautiful the 25-minute helicopter ride had been back to civilization in Wanchai. From the landing zone, she was taken on an ambulance to the hospital. They discovered that what she really had was a stress fracture. I was amazed at how she had been smiling and keeping her cool throughout the ordeal despite a stress fracture! Given her bravery, resilience and tendency to make the best of any situation, I am sure she will be back on the trails quickly! And, in the meantime, I am sure she will find a way to enjoy the time she spends in recuperation.

A sumptuous dinner being the beginning!

Linda proving that a foot injury can be good for the stomach — photo courtesy – Linda

Get well soon, Linda!!



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Oxfam Trailwalker 2013

Author: ltcommander  //  Category: Hiking in Hong Kong, Oxfam Trailwalker, THE RACES



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Oxfam Trailwalker 2013

The team
We had a collective 29 years of Trailwalker experience in the team! We had veteran Rupert who was on his 17th Trailwalker, effectively dwarfing my 7th consecutive Trailwalker experience and Vic’s 5th consecutive Trailwalker experience. Michael, our new teammate, was attempting his first 100km run but judging by his recent form, it looked like it was going to be easy-peasy for him. Our team target was 15 hours.

Looking fresh at the start – Courtesy Vic

The support
One car. Several motorbikes. Several pacers. Several “static” supporters. Loads of well wishers. An Excel spreadsheet that seamlessly coordinated all of the above. It felt like we were some kind of celebrities! In fact, I was getting used to bossing our pacers and mules around. All this was the effort of our Support Team Leader Martijn and Rom. I couldn’t help but ask “Do we really deserve this?”

Stages 1 and 2
We got off to a nice and well-paced start at 9am. We had Rom and Pierre with us who were pacing us and carrying our supplies all the way from the start to the end of Stage 2.

We came across some interesting tee shirts as we watched the other runners. The Fire Services team had a nice tee shirt on which had the word “Fire” written on it with an image of a burning fire.

“Are you on fire?” Michael asked one of the guys on the team. Judging by the way they were going, it very much looked like that was the case!

We were bang on schedule (or even about 10 minutes ahead) by the time we got to that downhill concrete stretch right before getting down to the beaches in Sai Wan. I was eagerly waiting for my coconut water that our “static” support person Roger was supposed to bring me near the beach on Sai Wan.

That’s when we saw it – a sudden and uncalled for detour! There was this dodgy looking guy who inverted the Oxfam Trailwalker sign so it pointed in the direction we knew to be wrong. He insisted that we take the other concrete trail all the way to Pak Tam Chung instead of going to Sai Wan. Rupert protested. Vic thought it was one of our rival teams trying to pull a fast one on us in an attempt to send us the wrong way. It took this guy a little bit of convincing to make us go the wrong way. Apparently, the villagers in Sai Wan had blocked access to the runners to protest against the Government taking away what they claim to be their land by the beaches. It was pretty frustrating – not only because we had to go the wrong way all of a sudden but because if the villagers do somehow win, they’d probably sell the land to some developer who will build some eyesore resort in an otherwise pristine Sai Wan. Rupert and I vowed never to buy anything from the villagers in Sai Wan to express our contempt.

Rom somehow ended up in Sai Wan which left us with only one mule – Pierre, who was running out of water for himself. He was now serving 4 runners and had to take care of himself as well.

We were running dry when we reached Pak Tam Chung and were shocked to know that there was no water available there at all. Luckily, Martijn had prepared for this contingency and sent our Stage 3 pacer/mule Mark down to Pak Tam Chung with supplies. We then ran up the road from Pak Tam Chung all the way to the Stage 3 junction via the Care Action route.

Stages 3 and 4
The sun was shining brightly and the views were spectacular. We had pacers/mules James and Mark with us for these two stages. I loved bossing Mark round. All I had to say was “water” and he’d come running up to with water. I felt powerful! James gave me a peanut butter sandwich which I gobbled up quickly.

Stage 3 was largely done on autopilot mode. We were pacing ourselves very well and we finished the stage on target or slightly ahead of schedule.

At the end of Stage 3 near Kei Ling Ha, we met Rom and his BMW support crew. I knew Rom was a fantastic runner but I didn’t know he good a cook he was as well! I grabbed his potatoes which tasted delicious. My main regret as I left the checkpoint was that I didn’t carry enough of his potatoes.

I saw Hannes at the checkpoint as well. He told us that we were doing great and looking very strong which felt good to hear!

Stage 4 was longish but again, very well paced. On the top of Ma On shan, I saw our team photographer Phoebe and I made sure I asked her my usual question – “does my hair look ok?”

We somehow burnt Mark out somewhere near the end of Stage 4. I think we were way too demanding! James seemed to be lagging behind as well. He kept appearing and disappearing towards the end . But, not before ensuring that all of us very doing well and had all our supplies! As I saw James struggling a little bit, I looked at him and said “I wish I could help you”. “Yes, pull me!” he exclaimed. I pretended not to hear that!

Stages 5, 6
We were greeted by our Support Team Leader/runner/mule/pacer Martijn (talk about wearing multiple hats) on Sha Tin pass road. Our pompom donning cheerleader Jean-luc also greeted us enthusiastically as we cruised to our static support crew in Sha Tin pass. I quickly changed my tee shirt, applied some Vaseline on the sole of my feet, drank ginger tea and got ready to leave the checkpoint. I saw Hannes there who treated me to some special Swiss potatoes. I grabbed a pack of potatoes from him and started going up Stage 5. Vivien and Milos were our pacers/mules for Stages 5 and 6. Again, I thoroughly enjoyed bossing Milos around as he was guarding the back. He was my personal mule. All I had to do was shout out instructions and he’d obey. Power does corrupt!

Again, we were bang on target or slightly ahead of schedule as we arrived at in Shing Mun at the end of Stage 6. None of us had any significant problems up until Stage 6. Vic reminded me of our first Trailwalker five years back when our teammate Yuki was cross with us for having run too fast! It was also her birthday so we remembered her and wished her happy birthday!

Stages 7,8
We had Martijn and Milos as our pacers/mules on this junction. This was the first time I felt my body slowing down. I wasn’t sure of the reason but I had trouble keeping up with the guys as we were climbing Needle Hill. However, on the downhill, I was much faster (or at least I thought I was) and I went ahead of them knowing that they’d catch up with me on the way upto Grassy Hill. I quickly realized that they had caught up with me way sooner than that! That meant only one thing – I was losing power! Our outcome for the day was to finish running the Trailwalker as a team in the minimum amount of time possible while enjoying the process (well, kind of). So, I checked pride and ego at the door and asked for our tow rope! I saw mighty Michael walking up ahead looking real strong. I couldn’t read the slightest expression of tiredness in his face. It looked like this was a walk in the park for him. I asked him to tow me using the tow rope. And, off we went, with me using about 80-90% of my power and deteriorating slowly but surely! Rupert was being towed by Vic as he appeared to be slowing down as well but not as much as me. My stomach then refused to eat/digest and peeing became a thing of the past! My pee stops were long and devoid of any peeing! I tried drinking hot water/ginger tea but neither seemed to help.

I got off the tow on the trail down to Lead Mine pass from Grassy Hill and thought to myself how great it would have been had this been a HK100 race that ended at the end of Stage 8 instead of Stage 10.

I sat down for about 30 seconds at the foot of Stage 8 and drank a cup of coffee at the checkpoint which I usually never do. I figured I needed the caffeine to stop myself from wobbling around the trail or falling asleep! Then came the usual mental question regarding why I was doing this. I remembered Steven’s answer, “because it’s there!”

Vic somehow started eating like a man who hadn’t eaten in ages. That meant he had a lot of power and energy to kill. Being the capitalist that I am, I immediately decided to capitalize on the opportunity and asked him to tow me! And tow, he did! I was only using about 70% of my usual power while climbing Tai Mo Shan but I was still deteriorating at a pace faster than before.

Martijn was next to me and cheering me up. “Think about Scott Jurek”, he insisted. “Tell yourself that you’re a winner. I am a winner.. I am a winner..” he repeated trying to set my mental state of mind. All my answers to his questions were all one-worded. I was conserving every ounce of energy I could and by me not talking, Martijn knew I had a problem! That’s like when the radio stops singing.

Near the pavilion on Tai Mo Shan, a mixed team overtook us. I was a little pissed off for slowing the group down and not being able to catch up with them but beating them at that time was the last thing on my mind. There were even those fleeting thoughts of self-doubt crossing my mind. “Can I really finish this today?”

I got off the tow on the downhill stretch to Route Twisk. I remembered my motorbike and how I was riding up and down this stretch just two weeks back. It was a shame I didn’t have the Kawasaki Ninja today!

Stages 9 and 10
Martijn left us on Stage 9 and we had Sunny and Ollie pacing us on Stages 9/10. Ollie and I are usually the loudest, noisiest chatterboxes in the group. (Actually, maybe Ollie has an edge over me in that department). She was encouraging me through Stage 9 and engaging me in interesting conversations or at least trying to – all this while I was on the tow with Vic. Unfortunately, I could only manage a string of loosely stitched up words in response which in many cases didn’t quite make sense. Stage 9 was long and boring. I was trying to focus and Ollie was forcing me to drink sips of water. Each time I’d have water, I’d burp a little and there was some release of energy – albeit short lived.

After what seemed like an eternity, we were at checkpoint 9.

Then came the last and most boring stretch of the Trailwalker – Stage 10. Sunny somehow went the wrong way on Stage 10 so we only had Ollie pacing us and carrying our stuff. After going around the reservoir, which I’ll say is definitely a sure cure for insomnia, we were finally at the concrete road going up to the special checkpoint just before getting into the last trail on the Trailwalker on Stage 10. I hated the sight of that trail but Vic assured me that it was only 3km long. But, it sure felt longer. Ollie engaged me in a conversation about stress management and made a point which I really wanted to refute but lacked the energy to do! I realized how hard a punishment not being able to talk can be!

And then finally, the last concrete bit to Tai Tong was in sight. Ollie and Sunny encouraged us to push ourselves to try and finish before 15 hours. I got off the tow with Vic and tried giving it my final push. We saw another team about 20-30m in front of us and tried to overtake them. Vivien showed up just before the final finish sprint and shouted words of encouragement at us. We regrouped and sprinted towards the finish line together with the other team about 5m ahead of us! As we crossed the finish line, our support group erupted in a loud cheer and much to our relief, we noticed that the team that was 5m ahead of us was not a complete team! They were still waiting for two more members to join them!

Somehow at the finish, my energy came back, my stomach problems disappeared and I felt alright again! It was probably the release of adrenaline from a charged atmosphere.

It felt so special to be there with our Support Team, pacers, mules and well wishers. I was overwhelmed with gratitude. Running the Trailwalker was so much easier compared to the task they were entrusted with.

Finished in 15.04!

Lacking the energy to jump at the finish – Courtesy Vic

Our support crew – Courtesy Vic

Credits
Our support team – Martijn, Rom, Jean-luc, Pierre, Mark, James, Ben, Vivien, Milos, Sunny, Ollie, Phoebe, Hannes, Cora, Chee, Ringo, VIvian and everyone else – THANK YOU so much! We hope we were deserving of your help! Without you, we couldn’t have come anywhere near 15 hours!

My awesome teammates – Vic (our 5th OTW together), mighty Michael (he was strong all the way to the finish) and the invincible Rupert.



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Lantau Two Peaks 2013 – Relivin’ the race

Author: ltcommander  //  Category: Lantau Two Peaks, THE RACES



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Lantau Two Peaks 2013 – Relivin’ the race

Bonjour!
I wore my French running cap for the day to replace my injured French teammate, Rom. It was our first race in the 2013-2014 racing calendar and Michael was my teammate for the day. We showed up nice and early at around 7.30am in Tung Chung and were all dressed to kill in our brand new HKTR outfits to impress our new sponsor Raidlight. After having posed for several rounds of celebrity-style photographs, it was finally time to put aside our posing skills and get back to our running skills.

Hong Kong Trail Posers.. I mean Runners

Sun don’t shine on Sunset peak
Soon after we started, it became clear to me that the “French” running cap I was wearing for the day was no match for my teammate Michael’s natural “Austrian” running cap. He was running like a mountain goat with such effortless ease, whereas I was breathing like a broken-down air-pump and still struggling to maintain a lead. In fact, while climbing Sunset Peak, I realized that my French running cap was as bad as … my French! I wished Rom were fit enough to run the race as per the original plan. I was losing power. All of a sudden, it felt like life was moving in slow motion. Everyone around me was overtaking us and I was the cause for this slowdown. The root cause was my stomach – I didn’t get the all important “clear to run” signal from my stomach. In simple English, that means that I failed to burp!

But, I had been in this situation far too many times before and knew exactly what to do. First, I knew that I needed Michael’s support, so I told him that I was sorry for slowing us down. I knew the response. “No worries, it is a team event, take your time”, he said, sounding a bit like Arnold Schwarzenegger and definitely moving like him. Great. That took a lot of pressure off me and that was 50% of the battle won. The next 50% was in the mind. I remembered a quote I read in Scott Jurek’s book Eat and Run. When asked why he ran, he said, “I ran because overcoming the difficulties of an ultra marathon reminded me that I could overcome the difficulties of life, that overcoming difficulties WAS life”. Well, that somehow justified why I was running this race and allowed me to refocus.

The sound of music
Near the top of Sunset Peak, I heard what I wanted to hear. It was that one sound which defines victory in the world of running. That one sound that separates prolonged pain from instant gratification – a simple, yet highly powerful four-letter word. BURP! That’s right. Burp. Yes, burp, burp and burp. B U U R R P P. My breakfast from the morning was biochemically being transformed from being a liability to the stomach to an asset to the muscles. As I was burping, I could smell my morning smoothie being transported from deep inside my stomach right to my arms and legs and muscles! (Yes, requires a bit of imagination to visualize that). And, boy did that feel good! The sun was shining again. And my favorite downhill stretch to Pak Tam Au was in sight! I burped some more and thought to myself “always better from the mouth than from the rear”, then I increased speed and turned on my noisy “steam engine” heavy breathing mode. Life was moving in fast forward motion again. I began to overtake (and annoy) several runners in front of me with all the noise I was generating. Then came the first water stop for the day in Pak Kung Au.

Posing our way to the top of Lantau Peak
Once again, Michael demonstrated his ability to defy gravity by effortlessly climbing Lantau Peak like a hero from an action movie. I, on the other hand, had far more serious matters to tend to. My looks that is. First, I recognized a familiar face that was almost covered in a bush of beard. A long telescopic lens next to this face revealed this person’s identity. It was my friend Lloyd taking photographs. I took off my middle eastern style cap to ensure that I looked good for the photo. Somehow this little act of narcissism took the focus off my running and now I had to wait for my next burp to feel good again. Then I saw Phoebe and Vivien at a distance. I was too scared to try and remove my cap again for the photo, so I instead shouted out “does my hair look ok?” Vivien said something like “ok, ok” which didn’t sound too convincing. So, I had to get my priorities right. Should I focus on the race or focus on putting out my best pose for the photo? It was a no brainer. I took my cap off again, mustered all the courage I could gather, and put on a nice and big artificial smile for the cameras – all this while waiting for my next burp! This is probably what they mean by “multi-tasking”.

Should I focus on my running or on my looks?

Why.. my looks of course

Cruising along from Lantau Peak to the start of Donkey Trail
Reaching the top of Lantau Peak brought some Swiss style intelligence and some English style support to the equation. There was Dom who handed over a bottle of Aquarius to me for some extended burping effect, and Hannes, who told Michael and me that we were the Numero Uno team in the Team of Two category. Michael and I knew that Swiss timing and information could never be wrong. So, having heard that, Michael was already way up ahead and looked all set to keeping us as the first Team of Two. I kick started my engines again, burped some more, and ran down to Ngong Ping in 12 minutes producing a lot of noise in the process. We kept overtaking more and more individual runners.

Donkey Trail to the finish
Michael shouted words of encouragement at me during the flattish stretch from Ngong Ping to the beginning of Donkey Trail. I maintained a steady jogging pace and saw ace runners Emma and John at a distance. John let me pass him but looked fit enough to go much faster than me. I thought to myself that maybe he was giving me a well-deserved chance to go ahead of him. Very kind of him.

For the first time during the race, I was in a position to keep up with Michael and even overtake him on the steep downhill part back to Tung Chung. “Amazing!” he exclaimed as I went past him on the downhill steps. But, unfortunately, his appreciation ran out as soon as we reached the last flattish stretch back to Tung Chung. He was capable of going at well over 14kmh whereas I found myself losing steam and was maxed out at 10kmh.

I changed the track on my Mp3 player and tuned into some nice Rock N Roll music to take my focus off the boring flat concrete stretch back to Tung Chung. Luckily, just as the song was about to end, I saw the yellow finish line banner. We arrived at the finish in exactly 3 hours and 50 seconds. It was my fastest ever Lantau Two Peaks race. And, had Michael done it alone, he could have easily done 2 hours 45 minutes or less!

The ultimate mountain goat for the day
2 hours 26 minutes – a new course record. That’s how long it took Clement to run this course. And, when I saw him at the finish, he looked like he had just gone for a stroll in the park. I asked him what any clever reporter would ask an accomplished athlete, “so, how did you do it mister?” His answer was simple. “Plenty of Red Bulls and run fast!” Yes, the secret to fast running is really no secret I tell ya.

The magic of Red Bulls
Speaking of Red Bulls, my friend Vic was all of a sudden very interested in drinking Red Bulls and that too, not just for himself, but he was also encouraging everyone else to go get one. In fact, he readily volunteered to get me one too. And, when I looked around, it became clear why. There were two hot chicks giving away Red Bulls for free. It gave us all plenty of wings.

HKTR Team Performances for the day
HKTR won an impressive five medals for the day.
Michael and I came first in the Team of Two.
Running machine Tilly and Paul finished first in the Mixed Team of Two.
Jinhwa and Vic came second in the Mixed Team of Two.

It was a great start to the beginning of the racing season for The Hong Kong Trail Posers. I mean Runners.

Finally.. the finish line

The Top 3 teams in the Team of Two category

A profitable race. Cash coupons and big cups to drink beer from

Garmin.



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King of the Hills (Hong Kong) — 2013 Edition

Author: ltcommander  //  Category: Hiking in Hong Kong, King of the Hills - Hong Kong, THE RACES



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King of the Hills (Hong Kong) — 2013 Edition

To “pee” or not to “pee”
In the last King of the Hills, i.e. KOTH Lantau, Michael heroically demonstrated how the sport of trail running has the unique ability to eliminate the need for a dump. Yes, he showed us that having a heavy + full bowel at the start of the race can still be fun, if you run! However, today, he didn’t practice the same philosophy. As Giuseppe pointed out with a wide smile on his face, Michael arrived at the starting point in Repulse Bay 30 minutes earlier, specifically, to do his business! So, don’t get rid of the toilets just yet! However, I know what all of you are thinking. Does the same philosophy apply to peeing as well? Can one do a 30km race with a stomach full of liquid content from the start? The person (read: lab rat) who tested this theory at the start today was none other than the famous Jogger J. As Keith, the race organizer, did a T-10 minute race countdown akin to a NASA rocket blast countdown, there was only one question that kept echoing in Jogger J’s mind — to pee or not to pee. Shakespeare was obsessed with “to be or to be”, well, change “be” to “pee” and there you have it — a man’s greatest dilemma at the start of a race. I know I can relate to it because I have been there myself! I blame it all on those websites that advocate hydrating very well before the start of race. What they don’t tell you is that if you go overboard with the hydration, you end up facing the wrath of excess water in your stomach, much like the hardship that Jogger J faced today. In fact, he was still in two minds at T-1 minute but at “blast off”, he simply started running.

Will we discover something about our own bodies from Jogger J’s experience? Read on to find out.

To pee or not to pee? Read on to unlock one of life’s mysteries



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King of the Hills – Lantau (2013)

Author: ltcommander  //  Category: Hiking in Hong Kong, King of the Hills - Lantau, THE RACES



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King of the Hills – Lantau (2013)

To go or not to go
The usual KOTH runners assembled at about 9.15am in Nam Shaan. Michael showed up a little late and told us that he had forgotten to take a dump in the morning. That began an interesting conversation. I offered my “expert” advice and told him that trail running would automatically get rid of the “dump” in his body as he could easily fart it away. Jogger Joel, who stood there looking all engrossed in the conversation, just said one thing: “Can I be please in front?”

The full marathon was supposed to start at 10.10am and at 10.07 Michael wondered again if he had time for the loo. To go or not to go was the million dollar question. I told him that he was out of time and with that we decided to change the topic of conversation.

Nam Shaan to Tung Chung
At 10.10am, we got climbing to the top of Sunset Peak. I decided to take it a little easy at the start and wasn’t bothered by the runners who were overtaking me. Soon, I saw Martijn and Hannes taking photos in the corner. They were sweeping the trail. “Hurry up, Michael and Jonathan are in front of you!” Martijn yelled out as I was slowly climbing up Sunset Peak. In about 45 minutes, I reached the turning to Lin Fa Shan and turned on my gentle running mode. I began overtaking a few people on the technical bits, starting with Jogger Joel. Eventually, I overtook AJ and Alger. Then we climbed up Pok Toi Shaan and some other Shaan (I can never remember this Shaan’s name) and then came one heck of a bushwhack back down to Tung Chung.

That was one hardcore, steep and long downhill bushwhacking section. I was going at my optimal “no injury” speed while turning back every now and then to see who was behind me. Not because I didn’t want to be overtaken, but more because I didn’t want to be run over by someone on such a narrow trail! I badly missed by Anti Knee Protection (TM) invention. Should have worn them. My knees could have done without the scratches from those overgrown shrubs. Well, shoulda woulda coulda. Anyway, I was thinking up another clever invention while running down that narrow trail. Picture this: a headband with two rear-view mirrors attached to either side of it so you can actually see who is behind you without turning back. Perfect for observing “traffic” on such narrow trails. Don’t be surprised to see me wearing this marvelous invention on the next KOTH.

On the last downhill stretch, Aya ran past me like a rocket looking all fresh and energetic. “Well done Aya”, I shouted out as she passed me and, within a blink of an eye, she was gone.

Eventually, I reached the flat concrete bit, relieved to be out of that steep downhill stretch, and started running at a consistent pace. I saw Michael there who said he was having trouble on the downhill bits and contemplated quitting. I advised him against it and told him the worst was already over. Then we overtook the fast Pig Chan who was wearing a tee shirt that read “I am very, very slow”. Hmm.. Imagine a Ferrari with a number plate that reads “slow”. Just not possible. I overtook Pig but knew that he’d overtake me again at some point. Then I saw the superfast Denvy who seemed to be pacing herself quite well. She said “Go Vince” as I overtook her.

Tung Chung to Pak Kung Au
The climb to Ngong Ping from Tung Chung was very steep! The bushwhacking was getting to me. Each time I tried to whack the shrubs back by increasing pace and stomping on them, the shrubs would get back at me by coiling around my leg, attempting to trip me and delivering more scratches. I was right behind Michael who shoelaces were undone. As he stopped to tie them, I overtook him. I also overtook Aya during the climb — she was beginning to look tired. Denvy somehow gathered an immense amount of energy and stormed her way up and overtook me with ease. I didn’t even bother trying to keep up with her.

I finally reached Ngong Ping where Dabera was the checkpoint volunteer giving out water. I asked her to refill my water bottle as I was gulping down some Pokari.

Then came the touristy jog to Wisdom Sticks — it’s amazing how these tourists take pictures of anything and everything. Many of them took photos of me running — not exactly what you would want in your family vacation album! I saw this one Chinese guy running ahead of me and overtook him on this stretch.

I started climbing up to Lantau Peak, one steep stair at a time. As expected, the “slow” Pig Chan overtook me on the climb. I tried to keep focus and didn’t even bother to look up to see how many stairs were remaining! I overtook someone on the climb who asked me if we were at the top. “Not yet”, I told him as we were at the first “false” top. About 10 minutes and several stairs later, we were at the real summit of Lantau Peak.

I ran pretty fast from the peak down to Pak Kung Au but was overtaken by two even faster runners on the downhill bit.

Eventually, I reached Pak Kung Au where Hannes and Martijn were waiting and providing me with some intelligence. “You got chicked”, Hannes said and encouraged me to go catch Denvy. “No can do”, was my response. She was just way too fast for me. After refilling my water, I set off for the last bit back to Nam Shan.

Pak Kung Au to Nam Shan
A long and mostly boring 8km run is what we had to go through to get back to the finish. I found my rhythm and was running this trail at about 8-10kmh. There were many small creeks to cross and one such creek almost had me falling into a mini gully. The trail turned left all of a sudden while I was still running straight. I saw the death trap and applied my emergency brakes just in time as curious half marathoners were watching. Then I picked up my rhythm again and saw one full marathoner in front of me. He was getting his second wind and accelerating really fast. I wanted to try to keep up with him but decided against attempting that. Finally, my Garmin read close to 30km and I could smell the finish but not before hitting the last round of stairs which I tried running up but eventually ended up walking up.

And finally, there it was — the finish! I finished in 4 hours and 14 minutes. 13th overall and 8th in my category. Last year, I finished in 4 hours 29 minutes and came 19th overall.

Michael came in about 5 minutes after me and Denvy finished 6 minutes ahead of me — in 4 hours 8 minutes. Very impressive. The winner (some new Chinese guy) beat trail running legend Jeremy Ritcey by just 11 seconds. The competition in these races is reaching new levels!

Oh, I forgot to ask Michael about his “not going” experience. I suppose one can after all run and fart his way out of a full bowel!

Garmin.



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Clinching a Greenpower victory by 12 seconds

Author: ltcommander  //  Category: Green Power, Hiking in Hong Kong, THE RACES



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Clinching a Greenpower victory by 12 seconds

It was Hong Kong Trail Runners’ first ever sponsored event. Lafuma was the sponsor and some simply awesome French-designed backpacks were at stake. (Well, the other “usual” things were at stake too, like sense of glory and achievement, etc, etc but the backpacks, I tell ya, were alone worth that 50km run!) But, in order to truly earn them, the objectives were twofold:

1) To break the current prevailing record of 4 hours and 45 minutes on the 50km Hong Kong trail
2) To win the Corporate Category under the Lafuma HKTR name

Vic, Vivien and I were going to represent HKTR as runners and we had at least a total of 15 people supporting the 3 of us! That’s 5 supporters per runner. We even had a motorbike crew which was available “on demand”. That’s not 1, not 2 but 3 BMW motorbikes supporting us — Hannes, Olivier and Romain. We neither depended on the organizer’s food stops not did we stop anywhere during the race. It was like a military operation planned by Generals Romain and Martijn. The army of 15 included Martijn, Michael, Jonathan, Gilles who were our pacers/mules (more about that later), then we had Hannes, Phoebe, Olivier who were our “mobile” support team and finally, we had Alice, Sunny, Janice, Maria, Philip, Billy and Nick who formed our “fixed” support team. Now, if this isn’t being pampered, I don’t know what is! The effort that went into coordinating the fixed/mobile and pacer teams was just mindboggling. Excel spreadsheets, whatsapp chat-rooms, briefing meetings, etc, etc. All done by Romain and Martijn to whom we owe a lot of gratitude. The three of us, Vic, Vivien and I, had the easiest job — to just run!

Speeches and races
We got to the start by 7.40am and found Romain and Phoebe already waiting for us! Romain began helping us from the get-go. Phoebe was testing her photography skills by using her new Canon camera on me. (She should have picked a better looking target). About 20 minutes before the start of the race, the three of us, Vic, Vivien and I, hit the toilets for that mandatory pre-race pee and gathered at the starting point by 8.20am. Then we had to bear listening to a long and boring speech by some special guest. I thought to myself that they should have been playing some live rock music instead. I told Vic to take it easy in the beginning and he repeated the same advice to me. Then I relayed that onto Vivien. We are all in agreement. Finally and thankfully, that boring speech was done and we were awoken by the countdown, 10, 9 .. 3, 2, 1 and off we went at 8.30am. Within a blink of an eye, Vic zoomed off and put us in the #1 position in our category by 8.31am. I reminded him of our “take it easy policy” and reigned him in.

Continue reading about the sponsored Greenpower race up ahead



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Vibram Hong Kong 100, 2013 edition

Author: ltcommander  //  Category: Hiking in Hong Kong, THE RACES, Vibram HK100



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Vibram Hong Kong 100, 2013 edition

My third consecutive time in three years on the Hong Kong 100. The first time I did it, I completed the course in 14 hours and 53 minutes. Last year, I surprised myself by finishing it in 13 hours and 28 minutes. This year, I somehow completed it in 12 hours and 51 minutes! Don’t ask me how. Probably just got lucky!

Morning preparation
I wanted to be at the start by 7am to collect my race bib. Unfortunately, an emergency dump request from the body just as I was about to leave home at 6.10am (yes, too much information) meant that I had to bike it all the way to Sai Kung to make it on time. (I thought about dumping the Tour De France style — without getting off the bike but it sounded too gross [much like the doping revelations]).

I arrived at the start at about 7.10am. It was jam packed with fit individuals. It felt like an army recruitment camp. The toilets were buzzing with activity (an indicator of an imminent race) and the fit guys were running minor laps around the starting point to get the body in rhythm.

Roger Graham showed up in the bag-drop queue and lifted his jacket to reveal his true name. “Call my Muz”, he said, as he displayed his bib which read “Muz Mohamad”. I remember he was “Bruce Pye” last year. One man — several identities, Jason Bourne style.

At about 7.55am, race organizer Janet Ng’s mom rang the opening bell. And 1200 runners (half of them from overseas) were on their way to run a 100kms!

Phil Rodd, Vivien, Me, Vic and Olivia at the start — courtesy Mark Green

Continue reading about the HK100 experience



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King of the Hills – Sham Tseng (2013)

Author: ltcommander  //  Category: Hiking in Hong Kong, King of the Hills - Sham Tseng, THE RACES



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King of the Hills – Sham Tseng (2013)

Rewind time to two years back: I completed the KOTH Sham Tseng marathon in 4 hours 57 minutes and came 16th overall. I also got lost in two different places.

This is what I wrote about that race two years back:


So, for the first 2 hours, I was trying to find the right dude to follow and eventually, I target locked some thin Chinese dude who was more or less cruising at the same speed as me. I just followed him blindly and even copied the few mistakes he made (better than using my brains).

Towards the last 10Km, that dude and I got separated. I stopped for water and lost him! That’s when I made my first big mistake for the day. Went uphill at some point instead of downhill. Lost about 7-9 minutes and had to retrace steps.

And, two years later, i.e. today, I followed the SAME Chinese dude (Alger Chan!) and, towards the end, both of us wrongly went up the same hill! Moral of the story: this is deep, so take note: “History repeats itself for those who don’t learn the lessons the first time around!” And, that’s a genuine quote btw! (picture me gloating and pulling up my own collar).

My result two years later was this: got lost two times (no change from two years back), came 28th overall. The time was 4 hours and 35 minutes (22 minutes better compared to 2010). But, despite being 22 minutes quicker, I came 10 places behind compared to two years back! And, here’s another genuine quote to summarize that: “Competition is like inflation. For the same amount of power, you get less and less as each year goes by”. Ok, this one is not as great as the previous quote, but anyway…

I reached the start in Tsing Lung Tao at about 8am in the morning. (Btw, ladies and gents, Tsing Lung Tao, is not Tsing Tao — the beer! I thought it was the first time I heard the name but the “Lung” in between kind of changes the meaning altogether!) All the trail running celebs were there at the start on this cold morning. Rachel, Jinhwa, Rom, Martijn, Rupert, etc, etc.

Continue reading about Sham Tseng 2013



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Putting the “Care” back in Care Action!

Author: ltcommander  //  Category: Care Action, Hiking in Hong Kong, THE RACES



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Putting the “Care” back in Care Action!

What happens when you send 5000 people racing up a narrow trail? Answer: plenty of pushin’ and shovin’. When I first ran this race 3 years back, I fell victim to some ruthless pushing. I still sport war injuries from that race! A small scar on my right palm serves as a constant reminder of the ruthlessness of Care Action! Today, I was determined to keep my body safe and intact during the race. Therefore, I decided to wear my medieval body armor suit for this race. Here, take a look:

Perfect racing gear for a ruthless race

However, I realized that there was only one small problem with this gear — it makes running up Sharp Peak slightly difficult! But, not the one to be bogged down by such a small problem, I was instantly reminded of the Giorgio Armani in me and wore my very own trail-fighting designer wear.

Remember Natteri’s Anti-knee scratch protection (TM)?

I also wore my gym gloves to complete my Rambo-style outfit for this race. I was ready for any fight and even looking forward to one!

Continue reading about the Care Action 2012 experience!



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