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!


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King of the Hills, Lantau (2012)

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

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This was my final training run before next week’s big event – the Vibram HK100. Actually, it was a race but I gave myself strict orders : at no point during the race was I supposed to feel like crap. Meaning, I was to avoid being influenced by runners around me and play my own game. At the end of the race, I had to feel like I could do another 20km. So, speed was to be controlled accordingly.

I reached Nam Shan at about 9.30am and was amazed at the turnout. When I first did KOTH two years back, there were probably half the number of participants as there were today. Looks like Hong Kongers are increasingly keen to get fit!

Jogger Joel showed up in his usual trademark style: two cameras were mounted on his head, one focused on the view from the front and the other served as his 3rd eye at the back of his head. (It probably captured me expressing certain obscenities when he was busy running). He was also missing his luggage tag (one tag is issued for all races and a replacement costs HKD 20). Nobody likes paying fines and he was no exception. However, he came up with what he thought to be a bulletproof plan. He handed them a large 500 dollar note, banking on the fact that they wouldn’t have 480 bucks in change. Unfortunately, they seemed to have a lot more than just 480 bucks, which let both of us to conclude that they would be the perfect targets for a planned robbery.

The race started at 10am. I was busy focusing on keeping cool and ran a little slowly in the beginning. Several runners overtook me during the Sunset peak climb. However, keeping cool and a slow start paid off once I reached the turnoff to Pok Tai Shan. I turned on my noisy mode (heavy and loud breathing) and that frustrated the runners in front of me enough to get out of my way (Nora wasn’t pleased). On the way down from Pok Tai Shan to Tung Chung, Olya came dashing down the mountain like a speeding bullet. Not willing to be taken out by this bullet, I did the wise thing and got the heck out of her way. She disappeared even before I could blink my eye.

That horrible descent from Pok Toi Shan to Tung Chung featured several thorny overgrown shrubs and scratched my sexy legs on several occasions. Note to self: next time, attach a machete to the side of each leg. (TAKE THAT SHRUBS – revenge is going to be sweet). Anyway, after that descent, there was some flat running all the way to the beginning of a 650m climb to Ngong Ping. Abiding by the strict orders I received, I kept my pace fairly easy (9kmh) and didn’t even bother looking at other racers (females excluded). The climb to Ngong Ping was powered by a gel and sufficient water, resulting in me feeling like Rambo for a few moments. I managed to re-overtake the speeding bullet (Olya), albeit only temporarily.

The tourists in Ngong Ping were all puzzled by my rather un-touristy look. I got weird stares as I was making a beeline for The Wisdom Sticks – the start to the infamous climb to the summit of Lantau Peak. I regulated speed again as I was climbing those super steep stairs up to Lantau Peak. Then, I had a dejavu. It was Olya overtaking me again with some serious power. Once again, I did the wise thing and got out of her way. My orders were to maintain an easy pace and I wasn’t going to disobey them (ok, fine, I had little energy to overtake her!) Anyway, I reached the peak slowly but steadily and then it was time for one of my favorite downhill stretches in Hong Kong: the run from Lantau Peak to Pak Kung Au. I did the usual – I envisioned I was flying a Cessna (yes, I’ve got issues) and “flew” downhill to Pak Kung Au.

The last 7km stretch from Pak Kung Au back to Nam Shan seemed never ending. I kept my pace fairly constant and overtook 3 runners during this stretch. This last stretch made me hungry but I had already used up all my ammunition. (Note to self: next time, carry more food man!)

And, finally, I finished the race in 4 hours 29 minutes (12th in my category, 19th overall). Olya finished 8 minutes quicker and another runner I thought I would see but never saw was Chang, he finished in true “Express” fashion – in 4 hours 8 minutes. The winner, who in all probability is some kind of bionic man, finished in an incredible 3 hours 28 minutes.

Great race. Now, to rest the body for the big (and scary) race next week.


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Racing, 2011-01-09, King of the Hills (KOTH) – Lantau

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

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King of the Hills – Lantau is supposed to be the toughest full marathon in the series. The half is supposed to be the easiest. The full starts off in Nam Shan and then goes near the top of Sunset peak before deviating to the right to Lin Fa Shaan. After a couple of hills more, there’s a pretty steep (I mean STEEP! Like the graph of a stock market crash) trail to Tung Chung. As if that’s not hard enough, the course then calls for going back up to 650m (Ngong Ping) from Tung Chung and then to Lantau Peak from there (950m). Then all the way down to Pak Kung Au and then a flat 7.5km trail back to Nam Shan. The site says 29.8km but it’s more like 30.5km according to a consensus of Garmins post race today.

We started the race at 10am in the morning. I can’t believe how many fit people there are in Hong Kong. I am amazed! Well, my coordination seemed to be off from the beginning! Fell a record 5 times! Usually, my falls are few and they are elegant falls meaning I get up quickly, without inflicting any self damage and it seems more like a ballet step. Today, they were ugly falls and 2 of them left bruises on the knees!

Problems today:
- coordination was off – synchronization wasn’t right. Fell 5 times at least and all falls were inelegant
- Sprain near the left toe – constant nagging feeling but didn’t impair running
- Bottom of right foot sent pain signals every time it hit the ground (but tolerable pain)
- Should have worn tracks. The overgrowth left several scratches on my sexy legs

Good moves for the day:
- Didn’t get lost anywhere! Course was well marked
- Nutrition was properly managed – no stomach pain or pangs of hunger
- Made sure motors will running all the time. Didn’t walk any part of the flats. Kept jogging at 8-9km at the very least

Last year stats were as below:

Finished in 5 hrs 30 minutes 07 seconds (app 30 Km)
Came 18 in category (not sure how many people)
Came 53 overall (well over 130+ people)

This year:
Finished in 4 hrs 39 minutes 08 seconds (30.5Km)
Came 7th in category (not sure how many people)
Came 16th overall

(big improvement over last year)


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Hiking, KOTH Lantau section 2010

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

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What a humbling experience! I have to say, this has been the toughest 30Km hike I have done so far! Imagine going up from 0m to 900m not once but TWICE!

It’s just amazing how there are so many fit people in Hong Kong. The KOTH series seem to attract the fittest of this bunch! So, it’s just a humbling experience to participate and finish!

The registration was in the 0830 HKT ferry to Mui Wo and I realized I had forgotten to take my bib from the previous race (KOTH requires that users keep one bib for all races otherwise there’s a 20 bucker fine). Well, the day regretfully started off with me paying a 20 bucker fine for a new bib! I was pissed off because I HATE paying fines regardless of the amount. The businessman inside me thought of a way to salvage this. I wanted to get another tee shirt for today and thought the value of the tee shirt would be way more than 20 bucks. But, unfortunately, my plan was foiled by a gentleman at the registration who advised that each participant would only get 1 tee shirt for the series and I had to “treasure the tee shirt” I already had! Oh well! I wrote off the 20 bucks!

Race started at 1000 HKT and all the fit guys were zooming off. My protocol required me to go slow on uphills and fast downhill but the latter was tough because 130+ people were on the trail and I wasn’t running in the beginning to be ahead of everyone else.

After Sunset Peak (0m to app 800m), there were some super climbs before returning to 0m (Tung Chung). Surprisingly, I didn’t get lost anywhere as I was always following some fit dude/dudette. The climb back up to Ngong Ping made my muscles tender (650m) and there was a steep, grueling climb to Lantau Peak (900m) after that. Boy, I had to stop for a break (I NEVER do that!!) It was tough!! I couldn’t quite run down Lantau Peak either because of some cramp (I NEVER get them but got them today!) Upon reaching the saddle, there was a further 8M run back to Nam Shan!

Well, here are the stats:

Finished in 5 hrs 30 minutes 07 seconds (app 30 Km)
Came 18 in category (not sure how many people)
Came 53 overall (well over 130+ people)

So, overall, it’s been a humbling experience and it’s amazing how I am such an amateur in front of the people who participated. Winner finished in something like 3 hrs 40!

Shoulda, Woulda, Couldas
1) Better nutrition/water management to prevent the cramps
2) Should be faster uphill
3) Should be faster on flats

since downhill strength on these races can’t be used optimally. Btw, soon after I got the bus back to Tung Chung, the body recovered! No more cramps! I think I can even do a 5Km run now!

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