Cloudy Hill, Pat Sin Leng, Plover Cove plus plenty of sunshine
A poolside Corona or a 37km run?
35 degrees centigrade. 90% humidity. Zero cloud cover. Scorching heat. This is the kind of weather an average Joe would spend relaxing, lying on a poolside bench and sipping an ice-cold Corona. But, us? No, not the Hong Kong Trail Runners. Our way of relaxation in this weather is to go out on a mammoth scorching hot run. And not just any run. Today’s run was the mother of all heatstroke-causing runs. Cloudy Hill, Pat Sin Leng and Plover Cove. 37kms of sheer brutality with over 2200m of accumulated elevation. Extreme endurance training at its very best.
Cloudy Hill and Pat Sin Leng
It didn’t take long for us to be drenched in sweat. All it took was the first couple of stairs of Cloudy Hill! I was at the front with Tilly, Emma, Rupert and Michael when I saw two fast female runners coming at us from the opposite direction. It didn’t take long for me to recognize who they were. Ace-runner Aya gave me a high-five as she passed us like a rocket along with Jeanette.
The views were noticeably spectacular, especially in the beginning when the effect of the strong rays of the sun still didn’t have as much of an adverse impact on us! Tilly, Emma and I were the first ones to complete Cloudy Hill. We then started climbing the first and toughest hill of Pat Sin Leng when Rupert caught upto us. I could definitely feel the sun piercing my skin at this point. I tried to stay in the shade as much as I could. The scenery was spectacular when viewed from areas that were covered in a bit of shade! Normally, I run up all the sundry peaks of Pat Sin Leng instead of taking shortcuts around them. But, not today! Today, I decided to conserve energy and stay cool as much as possible.
Even after having run Pat Sin Leng dozens of times in the past, I consistently keep getting the signboards wrong. When I was on top of the 2nd hill with 6 more to go, I misread the signboard on the peak thinking I was on the 6th hill with 2 more hills to go! I can tell you this — false hopes + 35 degrees of sunshine don’t bode well! As soon as I had realized my mistake, I decided that I would someday go back and add “6 more to go” on that signboard to prevent such confusion in the future!
We finished running Cloudy Hill and Pat Sin Leng in about 3-something hours and ran to Wu Kau Tang to refuel. Emma and Michael decided to leave us there and took the early exit out, while Rupert, Tilly and I continued on. I later learnt that Vic and Mark also decided to continue onto Plover Cover but not before relishing a sumptuous lunch at Wu Kau Tang and a cool down at the Bridepool’s waterfalls! To come to think of it, the three of us should have also done the same thing!
We stopped at a village in Wu Kau Tang briefly where I bought another 3L of water and downed one Coke in an attempt to complete running around Plover Cove in 2.5 hours.
The HOT Plover Cove
I’ve got great respect for Plover Cove. It’s one of those trails that has the potential of getting into your mind during hot weather and messing with it. Although no hill on Plover Cove is over 200m in elevation, the number of such undulations is enough to (in Fugees’ words) “kill you softly”. Somewhere before the halfway mark, I was well ahead of Rupert and Tilly but realized that I was drinking far too much water than anticipated and was being slowly (yet surely) challenged by the strong rays of the sun! Each climb uphill on one of those 200m hillocks in that strong sunshine brought back memories of my time in New Zealand when I was freezing my butt off while running under 2 degrees of cold weather and rain wearing only a tee shirt! If only I could have stored some of that weather and deployed it temporarily on Plover Cove! At one point, just after the halfway point, I sat down to cool myself down. I poured some water on my head for immediate and temporary relief but that came at the expense of a lack of drinking water to complete the rest of the run! Then I resorted to rationing the limited water I had. I walked/ran to conserve water and told myself to keep moving no matter what. It sort of worked although I did stop under some shade every now and then. I couldn’t believe that this was the same trail I ran in less than 2 hours about a month back. Today, it looked like it was going to take me roughly twice as long! Also, I realized that all I had to “eat” from the morning were two cans of Coke! Rookie mistake. You never attempt to run 37 kms on two cans of Coke for fuel! Anyway, by that time it was all shoulda woulda coulda.
Around 6 kms from the finish, I was totally out of water. I rubbed my tongue against my teeth to secrete some saliva and swallowed it. Some breeze hit my face from the shore side providing some temporary relief. I sat down for a minute or two and then continued part walking/part jogging as much as I could. Soon, I got better.
I reached the first dam feeling a great sense of gratitude that the end was coming. Then I got a phone call from Rupert. He told me that he was 6.5kms from the finish, exhausted, out of water and couldn’t move. I told him I’d turn back with water as soon as possible but, deep down inside, I was quite worried. I know that heat strokes can be quite dangerous and Rupert has a natural propensity to getting himself hurt. So, something told me that I had to take action immediately.
The rescue effort
I contemplated my options. (1) Call 999 (2) Call Hong Kong Trail Runners’ very own Mr. Wolf (If you don’t know Mr. Wolf you should watch the movie Pulp Fiction) (3) Find water somewhere -even if it’s the dam water- and run back with everything I’ve got.
I immediately ruled out Option 3. That dam water looked green and dirty. One look at it and I figured that he had a greater risk of succumbing to the ill-effects of drinking that dirty water more so than anything the sun could have done to him! My ETA to the finish point and back was a good 1-1.5 hours. I had to fix myself first as well. So, I decided to call Mr. Wolf.
Who is Mr. Wolf?
I quote from the movie Pulp Fiction: “I’m Winston Wolfe. I solve problems”. Our Mr. Wolf was Martijn! So, I called him. And he put together a rescue team from his home. Bei and Ray who were on their way back to Tai Po were asked to help with the rescue effort. They turned around on a taxi carrying several bottles of water. Mr. Wolf was on the phone with me coordinating the rescue effort remotely.
I called Bei. I asked her whether I should call 999. “Is it Rupert?” she inquired in a fearful voice. I confirmed it was him. “You should”, she answered, without a shadow of doubt in her voice! Just before I resorted to calling 999 and making history by being the first ever HKTR member to call 999, I decided to message Rupert. “Should I call 999”, I asked. I got a reply within no time. He said he was feeling better and was already at the first dam!
I saw Tilly running beside me on the last 0.5km stretch. I told her what had happened and she seemed anguished at having left Rupert behind. Although visibly tired, she seemed very strong mentally and was still jogging! We went to the nearby shop to buy water and jogged back across the dam to meet Rupert. Bei and Ray caught upto us there and the 4 of us were running towards Rupert.
Bei and her dear Garmin
The thing about the Hong Kong Trail Runners is that all running activities have to be captured on Garmin. Even a rescue attempt. Even before Bei could run back with water, she didn’t forget to turn her Garmin on to quantify the effort of the rescue! Later on, I learnt it was 7.5kms long. Ray also got to be a superhero at home as he probably told his wife that he was going to be late “as he had to go rescue someone”. Such are the privileges of being part of a rescue team.
We met an exhausted Rupert about 1.5km from the finish — a little late for an emotional “rescue” but it probably still helped! After giving him water, Tilly and Rupert went back to Tai Mei Tuk while Bei , Ray and I went onto support Mark and Vic who were still on the trail. Bei and Ray were jogging up ahead while I had to part walk/part jog most of the way back to the other side of the dam. We eventually met Mark and Vic who were both out of water.
Mark told us that he had seen a big cobra on the Plover Cove trail a little while back (could have made good supper) and that this was the last time he’d ever run on a trail like this during summer! (That’s what they all say at that point but get back to doing it before you know it!) After drinking water, both Mark and Vic ran back to Tai Mei Tuk while the “rescuers”, Bei, Ray and I were walking back!
And, of course, to conclude 37kms of running + 7.5kms of rescue (thanks, Bei for the Garmin), we decided it was time to finally sit down and eat a well deserved meal at the Thai restaurant in Tai Mei Tuk.
At the restaurant, we celebrated our achievements for the day and told Mr. Wolf that everyone was safe and sound. We successfully averted a 999 call but damn! I’ve always wanted a free helicopter ride…