Training diaries 2014: Mui Wo to Tai O via Lantau Peak/Sunset Peak

Another super hot day. Another fantastic run.

Quick facts (as I am outta time time today):
1. Tung Chung to Mui Wo:

Distance: 8.7km
Time: 51 minutes

2. Mui Wo to Pak Kung Au (via Sunset Peak)

Distance: 9km
Time: 1 hour 45m

3. Pak Kung Au to Ngong Ping (Wisdom Sticks) via Lantau Peak

Distance: 4.43km
Time: 1 hour

4. Wisdom Sticks to 7/11 via Lantau Trail Section 5
(I made faces at the cable car passengers overhead and waved to tourists as we entered Disney Buddha)

Distance: 2.7km
Time: 23m

5. Rest at 7/11 plus refueling (much needed Pepsi + ice cream + Cream Soda)
Time: 25 minutes

6. 7/11 to Tai O via The first Hill/Man Cheung Po and a shortcut to Tai O skipping Ling Wui Shaan
(The pool by Tai O was godsend. We all took a dip there. I got zapped by the heat while climbing Man Cheung Po but made a quick/full recovery by acknowledging it early enough. Too much machismo and you get fried!)

Distance: 9.63km
Time: 2 hours 1 minute

Distance: 35km
Time: 6 hours 21 minutes
Accumulated elevation: 2371m

What an awesome run this was! That little waterfalls on the Sunset Peak climb (Ok, more like a small piss from the hills was soothing and that last pool near Tai O – man, priceless!)


My half-marathon debut plus Sunset Peak, Lantau Peak, Ngong Ping and Tung Chung

My half-marathon debut plus Sunset Peak, Lantau Peak, Ngong Ping and Tung Chung

Sold on a road run
No denying that I am an addict. A trail running addict that is. So, when my friend Martijn sent me a message that read “want to do a race for free?”, I pounced at the opportunity! It’s like asking a marijuana addict if he wants free marijuana!

But, two details came slightly later. First was that he was referring to a “road run” and not a trail run. And the second “minor” detail came just 2 days before the event. The race was to begin at 6.15am on a Sunday in Disneyland Resort!! 6.15am on a Sunday? Hello?

As a trail running evangelist, I look upon road running disdainfully. How can a boring tar surface even compare to the beauty of a soft, muddy trail? Since when does traffic become a substitute for the gorgeous greenery you find on a trail?

Nonetheless, you can’t diss something without having tried it. And so, I went on the Unicef half-marathon, proudly wearing Martijn’s race bib. (Great to wear someone else’s bib! It gives you the opportunity to screw up big time!)

Rise and shine! It’s 4.30am on a Read more

Double ‘O’ – Mui WO to Tai O and back! 55kms, 4000m+ elevation!

Double ‘O’ – Mui Wo to Tai O and back! 55kms, 4000m+ elevation!

One of legendary trail runner KK Chan’s killer training runs is a tough run from Mui Wo to Ngong Ping and back! i.e. “The Lantau 4 Peaks”. And that involves climbing each of Hong Kong’s two highest peaks two times! As if that wasn’t enough, Vic wanted to further improvise on this run. Knowing his fondness for torturing himself (and us), he decided to add a little extension post Ngong Ping – a 12km undulating trail from Ngong Ping to Tai O featuring 3 more high hills! That’s Mui Wo -> Sunset Peak -> Lantau Peak -> Ngong Ping -> Lantau Stage 4 -> Man Cheung Po -> Tai O. Then you do an “about turn”, and guess what! You’ll have to do the same thing backwards! 55kms, 4000+ elevation! To put this in perspective, the entire 100km Oxfam Trailwalker course features about 4500m in elevation. In about half the distance, Vic’s improvised course covers an almost equal amount in total elevation. Insane guy.

In anticipation of this run, I bought a brand new pair of shoes to replace my old worn-out dilapidated ones. And, just as I was going to break them in on this run, the day started off with massive thunderstorms. (Nature seemed intent on messing with my new pair of shoes). I didn’t want my shiny new pair of shoes to look like they had been through hell and back so I was reluctant to wear them. But, my old ones were already in the dustbin so I had no choice. I then told myself a dirty joke and wore them, knowing very well that they would look several months older by the end of the day. Ok, I can read your mind – you want to know what the dirty joke is, right? Well, here goes: a lady is confused and asks her friend what she should wear on her honeymoon. She has too many choices of clothes to wear. Her friend finally replies – “it doesn’t matter what you wear because either way you’re going to get screwed!”

The thunderstorms didn’t seem to do much to intimidate the runners. We almost had full attendance. Martin showed up sporting a scruffy, unshaven look to intimidate the mountains while the rest of us showed up looking all gung-ho, ready for some trail torture.

Steven Sparksman, my Trailwalker teammate for several years, once ruled that all runs that begin from Mui Wo have to begin at the Mui Wo postbox right beside the ferry pier. Knowing very well that he’d be tracking our start and performance the same way NASA tracks Curiosity, we made sure that we took our group photo right by the postbox.

The formidable group by our beloved green postbox

Continue reading about the Trail Torture experience

Securing bragging rights by bagging 4 peaks in Lantau

Securing bragging rights by bagging 4 peaks in Lantau

Legendary trail runner KK Chan has several secrets to his success. One of them is a killer 31km training run in Lantau. It goes like this – Mui Wo->Nam Shan->Sunset Peak->Pak Kung Au->Lantau Peak->Ngong Ping->some itty bitty part of the Lantau Trail … AND BACK! We’re talking about something like 2,500m of elevation gain in 31kms. Now you know why they’re such a fit bunch!

We “borrowed” this page from KK’s training book and organized a similar run. 17 runners showed up for this unique opportunity to bag 4 peaks. We assembled nice and early at 7.30am by the postbox in Mui Wo ferry pier. I was about to deliver a prepared keynote speech on Lantau’s rich cultural heritage but I got booed down even before I could begin. What the group found far more interesting was a discussion on how to best wear a Heart Rate Monitor. And, Alice’s revelation on Heart Rate Monitors sparked an immediate widespread interest. She stated an incredible fact which has the potential of delivering a fatal blow to the Vaseline industry while propelling the makers of Heart Rate Monitors to a whole new level. Additionally, it also has the benefit of saving several thousand liters of male blood. Ok, in the interest of complete fairness and unbiased reporting, I have to say that I am not in any way affiliated to either the Vaseline industry or the makers of Heart Rate Monitors. Anyway, enough of this suspense, what she said was -get this – male trail runners can wear their HRM monitors around their nipples to prevent that dreadful chaffing! No more discomfort, no more blood loss, just satisfaction (and an accurate heart rate reading).

Detailed discussion on how to wear a Heart Rate Monitor

Prior to our run, I made the Two Commandments of HKTR Trail Running crystal clear to everyone.
Continue reading about how we bagged 4 peaks

Running the full Lantau Trail … well, until Shek Pik

Running the full Lantau Trail … well, until Shek Pik

The 68km Lantau Trail and I share a love-hate relationship. Well, more of love now but back in 2009, there was plenty of hate. That’s because every single time I was determined to complete running the whole trail or even large chunks of it, I’d invariably end up being cooked by the sun. I still remember hiking up Man Cheung Po (Stage 4) in the summer of 2009. The sun was so strong that by the time I reached the peak of a hill just before Tai O, I was walking in a zigzag path like a drunk man. I was forced to nap by the peak under the shade of some shrubs to recover from a heatstroke. The sun has been responsible for terminating many of my runs prematurely.

Today, as part of Steven’s “farewell” runs, we decided to run the whole of the Lantau Trail. We were pretty determined to complete the run despite a strong, looming threat from the sun. 9 runners showed up to rise to the challenge and we were off to a relatively easy start at 8.20am.

As we were running up the concrete trail from Mui Wo to Nam Shan, ace runner Jeremy Ritcey came speeding at us from the opposite direction. I high-fived him as he ran past us, creating a strong waft of breeze. We deliberately kept the pace rather easy in anticipation of a few bazookas from the sun. However, the Gods of nature had a different kind of bazooka for us, the thunder bazooka! The skies burst open for a few minutes resulting in a heavy downpour that transformed all visible trails into flowing streams. There was no point in trying to save my semi-new pair of shoes from a total immersion in water. In fact, even Michael Jackson, with all his moonwalking prowess, couldn’t have avoided getting his feet wet. So, I switched to Plan B – jumping up and down in puddles of water and splashing it everywhere, much like a small kid in a bathtub. Awesome fun! Although, probably not so great for my shoes. Nature owes me a new pair of shoes.

The deluge was a welcome gift from nature as the breeze and relatively cool weather saved us from being cooked by the sun. But, unfortunately, as the famous Axl Rose has declared, “nothing lasts forever even cold November rain”. Well, Axl wrongly thinks that rain + cold weather is actually a bad thing but I bet he has never gone trail running in Hong Kong during May. Anyway, we reached Pak Kung Au in about 2 hours, with all 9 runners still going strong. Much to our surprise, we saw Jeremy again, this time with two of his teammates, and they were now running in the same direction as us! I should have asked him but it looked like he was running parts of this course twice! His team overtook us on the climb to Lantau Peak.

3 hours later, we were close to Ngong Ping where we had a deja vu. It was Jeremy again! This time he was again running backwards, probably all the way back to Mui Wo, to keep an appointment with his wife! We derived some inspiration from his abundant energy and continued to keep running. Soon, we reached the touristy 7-11 in Disney Buddha (Ngong Ping). As usual, there were scores of tourists all over the place, invariably carrying massive cameras and taking pictures of anything and everything under the sun. Buddha seemed to have been transformed into a Disney character from a spiritual guru. But, on the positive side, the place did attract a lot of hot girls. Not sure what Buddha’s view on that is. But, as I was explaining this to teammate Romain, he agreed with my view on “hot girls” but warned that some “hot training” was also coming up next.

He wasn’t kidding. Just like The Terminator “will be back”, so will the sun! And, boy was it hot! Stage 4 of the Lantau Trail (Man Cheung Po) is probably the best part of the whole Lantau Trail but unfortunately, it’s totally exposed. This is why I invariably get cooked on this stage. But, all these years of training have made me a wiser man. I now know how to regulate body temperature better. But, this stage did take two runners away from us. Lawrence had to leave at Tai O with a knee problem and Olivia twisted her ankle.

Romain, Vic and I continued at the front while Pig and his friends decided to stop in Tai O briefly for lunch. We had done close to 40km of running and it clearly looked like the accomplishment of completing the whole of the Lantau Trail was well within reach, especially since the sun had again shown mercy and hid above a new cover of clouds.

But, after a boring reservoir run to Shek Pik, I had to make an executive decision. I had to decide between completing the whole trail with Romain and Vic or taking a bus back to Tung Chung at Shek Pik. The former option meant I’d get back home only by 9.30pm while the latter option meant a pizza + spaghetti in Tung Chung. My stomach made the decision. Romain and Vic were more disciplined and, at the time of writing this, they are probably somewhere close to Mui Wo!

Roughly 42km, no Garmin record unfortunately.
Garmin ran out of power in the middle of the run as I made a rookie mistake and forgot to charge it. (I guess sometimes even monkeys fall from trees..)